After letting two games slip away in overtime, Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors closed one out Sunday.
Calderon had 22 points and nine assists to lead Toronto to a 108-103 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Raptors, the last two defeats coming in overtime against Chicago and Philadelphia, respectively.
“It was good,” Calderon said. “We led a couple of games with big leads and it was just us.
“It’s just some mental mistakes and things we do, but we have to keep competing. We can compete against everybody in this league, but we have to do it for 48 (minutes) and try to minimize those mental mistakes we have sometimes.”
Calderon was 9-of-15 from the field and 1-of-4 from three-point range, often with Lakers star Kobe Bryant in his face.
“He (Bryant) is a great all-around player, he can play really good defence,” Calderon said. “But I was trying to put him in as many screen and rolls as possible.
“I was trying to look for my shot but also my teammates as well.”
Toronto improved to 11-9 at home before an Air Canada Centre sellout of 19,800, the club’s fourth this season. That wasn’t surprising given it was Victoria’s Steve Nash leading the Lakers but the Raptors spoiled the former NBA MVP’s first visit to Ontario with his new team.
Toronto courted Nash in the off-season before he ultimately went to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal that netted the Phoenix Suns four draft picks — first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. Nash finished the game with 16 points and nine assists.
“I thought our effort was very spotty, a little bit lazy, cutting corners,” Nash said. “I know we flew across the country [Saturday] and played an early — 10 a.m. by West Coast game — so for me that’s not an excuse, that’s a sign.
“You’ve got to come ready to play early and I didn’t feel like we were ready to play. We just, I thought, cut too many corners at too many different times of the game. It was too big a hole to climb out of.”
Landry Fields and Eddie Davis both added 18 points for Toronto (15-26) with Fields adding 10 rebounds and Davis registering eight. The Raptors earned their first win in five games against Los Angeles (17-23), which has lost its last five road games and eight-of-10 overall.
Los Angeles is a dismal 5-13 on the road but leads the overall series with Toronto 25-7.
“I thought that was one of the most complete games we’ve had all year from top to bottom,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “It was a good team effort and we executed down the stretch, which we didn’t do the other night.
“It’s the little things, ball movement, man movement, transition defence and then when the shot goes up box out.”
Casey also heaped lavish praise upon Calderon.
“I thought he was huge,” Casey said. “They tried to trap him but he found the right player, he made the right read and was just effective all night.”
Bryant had a game-high 26 points for the Lakers, who lost all-star centre Dwight Howard late in the first half following his second technical foul. Pau Gasol added 25 points.
After being flagged for a technical in the first, Howard received his second with 1:18 remaining in the half along with Toronto Alan Anderson after both got tangled up following a free-throw attempt. Howard left with five points through 17 minutes and didn’t speak with reporters after the game.
“It’s too bad,” said Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. “Obviously we didn’t need to lose him at that point.”
Bryant, predictably, disagreed with the second technical on Howard.
“There is nothing he [Howard] can do when a guy steps on him and puts a forearm in his chest,” Bryant said. “You say one thing and now it’s a double technical and [I] just don’t agree with that.”
Fields often drew the unenviable task of defending Bryant but made the Lakers star work for his points. Bryant finished 10-of-32 from the field and hit three of 12 three-pointers.
“He’s going to get his points,” Landry said. “There’s no way of stopping him, you just kind of have to make it as hard as possible.
“Really, that’s what my mindset was . . . react to his first move because he gives you a bunch of them and just remain as solid as possible and contest his shot as best as possible.”
Toronto shot 54.8 per cent from the field (46 of 84) and hit on 6-of-20 three-pointers. The Raptors also held a 40-37 edge in rebounding over Los Angeles, which connected on 38-of-88 shots (43.2 per cent), including 9-of-27 (33.3 per cent) from the arc.
“We have a lot of issues,” D’Antoni said. “Offensively, the ball sticks and we don’t take very good shots.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the other teams, it has got a lot do to with us.”
Nash opened the scoring with a layup but Los Angeles started slowly, making just three of its first 15 shots to trail 19-4 before rallying to cut Toronto’s lead to 29-20 to end the first.
Calderon’s jumper with 4.3 seconds left staked Toronto to a 53-49 half-time lead but the biggest play of the half came when Howard was forced to leave the game.
Toronto took an 83-70 lead into the fourth, thanks to Field’s basket with 14.5 seconds remaining in the third. Fields and Gasol both had 10 points in the quarter for their respective teams.
Consecutive three-pointers from Kyle Lowry helped stake Toronto to a 95-79 advantage early in the fourth before a Nash three-pointer and two from Bryant helped pull the Lakers to within 97-87 with 5:22 remaining. Nash’s two free throws pulled Los Angeles to within 107-101 with 17.8 seconds remaining but there was no miracle comeback for the visitors.
Notes — Defenceman P.K. Subban, a restricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens, took in Sunday’s contest. His hockey club dropped a 2-1 decision to Toronto at the Bell Centre on Saturday night in the season opener for both clubs. Subban, 23, is a Toronto native . . . . Gasol started at forward for the Lakers after returning to the lineup as a sub against Miami. Gasol had missed five games recovering from a concussion.