The Toronto Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on the floor of the Air Canada Centre Sunday by a score of 108-103 in one of the biggest upsets of the weekend.
Despite stellar performance by Lakers stars Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant on the offensive end—25 and 26 points, respectively—it was the shutdown defensive play of the Raptors and consistent offensive assaults that catapulted Toronto past Los Angeles Sunday.
The Raptors had great performances from forwards Landry Fields (18 points and 10 rebounds) and Ed Davis (18 points and eight rebounds), as well as the stellar showing from of Alan Anderson (14 points and eight assists) and the rest of the bench players.
With the Lakers unable to form any kind of rhythm at either end of the court, Toronto had little trouble disposing of what was once heralded as a Los Angeles team worthy of an NBA championship.
Not this team.
In one of the more memorable moments from this ugly game, Lakers star center Dwight Howard was ejected from the game with 1:18 remaining in the second quarter after receiving two technical fouls.
Lakers.com insider Mike Trudell described the foul that got the Los Angeles big man ejected:
Dwight Howard has been ejected from the game with very minimal contact with Alan Anderson (double tech).— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 20, 2013
While Trudell was modest in his explanation of the call, Bleacher Report NBA insider Ethan Norof described the incident how most people actually saw it:
That Dwight Howard ejection one of the worst calls I have ever seen an official make in an @nba game. Ever.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) January 20, 2013
The ejection was just another issue in a long line of problems that continues to plague the Lakers this season. With nothing going right for the team, now is the time for the core players to regroup and keep focused.
The last thing Los Angeles wants is for players to start mailing in their effort.
Player of the Game: Jose Calderon, PG, Toronto Raptors
While the Toronto Raptors may not make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, it won’t be from a lack of effort from veteran point guard Jose Calderon, who continues to be the biggest surprise of the season for the team.
Calderon had a great game again Sunday, scoring 22 points in 30 minutes while adding nine assists and shooting a very efficient 9-of-15 from the field.
Add in the fact that he was tasked the unenviable job of slowing down Steve Nash and that he helped shut down the Lakers offense, and this round clearly goes to Calderon.
Up Next for Toronto Raptors
After turning the season around and playing well enough to string together a few wins in December, the Toronto Raptors have once again begun to lose consistently.
The team had lost six of their last eight games coming into Sunday’s matchup with Los Angeles.
If the Raptors want to sneak in the back door to the Eastern Conference playoffs (currently 12th in the standings, six points back of eight place), they must start playing efficient basketball now and carry it through season’s end.
Sorry, Raptors fans—it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Up Next for Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were heralded as one of the greatest teams ever built this offseason. The sheer amount of raw talent the team has on the floor is impressive, but it hasn’t yielded the results the franchise thought it would.
Despite losing seven of the team’s last nine games, Los Angeles is still just a few points out of eighth place in the Western Conference and could easily make the postseason if the team starts winning consistently.
As the team full of bona fide All Stars continues to grow its continuity over the last three months of the season, the Lakers must build a solid rapport with each other now or fear missing the postseason all together.
There is a serious possibility that this team could miss the playoffs.