A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Rose In Full Bloom
TORONTO, ONTARIO – Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall were two players that many NBA observers felt would not be with the Toronto Raptors after the trade deadline. The pair had been part of much trade speculation, but now that the deadline has passed, they will remain with Toronto for the rest of the season. Raptor fans may be thankful for that now, as both players came up with huge plays in the fourth quarter to lift Toronto to a 108-102 win over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on February 27th.
It is always a bit of a circus when the Lakers come to town. Even this post-Shaq edition of the team brought a sellout to the ACC for the first time in a month. The capacity crowd was treated to an exciting contest.
The first quarter was faced-paced, with both squads paying little attention to defense. The Lakers shot 55% from the field, and Kobe Bryant once again dominated the Laker offense with 13 points. The Raptors used a more balanced scoring attack but their starting center, rookie Rafael Araujo, again seemed to be confused out on the floor, missing assignments and not collecting a single rebound. The lead changed hands eleven times with LA leading 29-28 at the end of the quarter.
The three-ball was a major part of the Raptor attack in the second frame, as they torched LA for 37 points in the quarter.
“As a team we gave up 65 points in the first half. Any time you give up 65 points in a half in the NBA, it’s going to be a long day. Individually, myself, I feel like I hardly played today because of foul trouble. We have to do a much better job executing at the end,” said frustrated Laker forward Lamar Odom.
Toronto’s reliance on the jump shot can sometimes be a blessing and a curse. They used it to successfully take a 65-55 advantage into the break, as well as gain a fifteen point lead midway through the third quarter. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to stay hot for an entire game and the Raps’ shooting turned cold in a hurry. As jumper after jumper clanked off the rim, LA cut the lead to two, 86-84, at the end of three quarters.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth battle as neither team could gain a comfortable lead. A Chucky Atkins jumper put the Lakers up 102-98 with 2:33 to play, and the momentum seemed to be on their side. This is the point in a game where Jalen Rose has shone for Toronto this season. The veteran guard lives for these moments and has become the Raptors go-to player in the fourth quarter. It is a role he fully embraces.
“It is something I’ve had in my whole career to try to keep it going. I’ve always had coaches who try and keep my pace during the first three quarters and overload me in the fourth. Fortunately for me, it has been effective my whole career”, said Rose, who finished with a team high 26 points.
At the end of the game, Toronto either ran screen and roll plays with Rose and Rafer Alston, or fed the ball to Rose in the post. He responded by scoring the next six points to put the Raps in front 104-102. As much as Rose wants the ball in crunch time, Kobe Bryant relishes these moments as well. Unfortunately for LA, in the last minute, Kobe missed a contested jumper and turned the ball over as Toronto stepped up their defensive intensity.
“Kobe is going to take a lot of shots. You have to be ready for them. We have to help whoever is guarding him because he is quick, and he can shoot too. That kind of guy is tough to guard”, said Raptor forward Chris Bosh. The rising star finished with 12 points and a game high 15 rebounds.
The play of the game, though, was made by Donyell Marshall. He had been shooting well from beyond the arc all game long, but out-hustled the Lakers to grab a timely offensive rebound with 26 seconds to play. He was fouled by Bryant and calmly converted both free throws to effectively ice the game for Toronto.
The win was huge for the Raps as they try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. It also gives them momentum heading into a difficult four game road trip that begins in San Antonio on Wednesday.
Edited / Karl James Kabasele