Reserves help Lakers preserve a 120-110 victory at Toronto
It was a pivotal moment, a moment when Lakers Coach Phil Jackson yanked three of his starters because he was displeased with how they’d let a 16-point lead slip, a moment for the reserves to step in and step up.
And they delivered in a big way, working as an effective unit, scoring almost half of the team’s points in pushing the Lakers to a 120-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
It was the Lakers’ fifth consecutive victory, and it allowed them to finish their trip with a 5-1 record. The only downside was reserve center Andrew Bynum’s saying his surgically repaired right knee was “sore” and that he felt pain in it after a fourth-quarter offensive rebound. Bynum, who led a dominant bench group with 16 points and seven rebounds, reported “no swelling” in the knee.
The reserves accounted for 57 points, 24 rebounds and eight assists. They were led by Bynum, who had his best game since returning four games ago after missing the Lakers’ first 24 games while rehabilitating his knee.
Shannon Brown had 14 points on five-for-seven shooting, making two of three three-point attempts, both coming in the third quarter.
Matt Barnes had 12 points and nine rebounds, Luke Walton nine points and Steve Blake six points.
“I was very pleased with the bench and how they performed in both the second and third quarter,” Jackson said. “I thought they bailed out the starters in a significant amount of minutes.”
The Lakers started the third quarter strong, opening a 68-52 lead, looking as if they were going to blow the game open.
Then things went sideways, the Raptors surging to within five points.
Jackson had seen enough, pulling starters with 4:37 left in the third.
He inserted Brown for Kobe Bryant, who managed to score 20 points despite a sprained right pinkie. Walton replaced Lamar Odom, who had 11 points in 34 minutes despite intestinal distress caused, he said, by something he ate Saturday night. Barnes went in for Ron Artest.
“They were substituted because they weren’t playing well,” Jackson said about Bryant, Odom and Artest. “They took early shots against the zone and played against the principles of what we wanted to do.”
Brown made a three-pointer almost as soon as he entered the game.
It got the reserves off to a good start, which they used to open a 10-point lead in the third.
The Lakers then finished off the Raptors to complete their trip, which began with a loss at Chicago, something Jackson said he thought could happen before they left Los Angeles almost two weeks ago.
“I said the only team that could beat us is Chicago when I talked to them,” Jackson said. “I didn’t say ‘we’re going to lose to Chicago.’ I said that was the only team out there on paper that could beat us, and they did.”
The Lakers avoided a loss to end the trip because their bench was so successful and lifted the starters.
“They’ve been solid this entire trip,” Bryant said. “They came in and gave us a big boost.”