Lakers mix heavy dose of Kobe Bryant and younger teammates in 102-91 loss to Toronto
Through all the question marks about Kobe Bryant’s durability and his younger teammates’ development, a tight rope emerged for the Lakers to navigate.To what degree will the Lakers rely on Bryant’s skill and 20 years of NBA experience in possibly his last season? To what degree will the Lakers lean on rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, second-year forward Julius Randle and second-year guard Jordan Clarkson to lay the groundwork of a potentially long-term future?As the Lakers demonstrated in their 102-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday at Staples Center, rarely are there concrete answers.Randle showcased his playmaking (18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 12 rebounds). Russell emerged with efficiency (a season-high 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, two assists). Clarkson maintained his consistency (13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, four rebounds, three assists). That coincided with Bryant posting 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting, though he made up for it with five assists and four rebounds. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error But the Lakers (2-10) did not rely on Randle, Russell and Clarkson to open the fourth quarter, a development that contributed to Toronto going on a 15-5 run for a 91-75 lead with 7:58 left. Meanwhile, Bryant played 37 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter, once again exceeding Byron Scott’s self-imposed minute restriction. This happened merely five days after Bryant logged 37 minutes in Sunday’s win against Detroit before sitting in Monday’s loss to Phoenix to rest. The Lakers still remained within striking distance despite the aforementioned developments. Bryant hit a 7-foot jumper and Metta World Peace nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Raptors’ lead to 93-87 with 3:43 remaining. Bryant then swished a pull-up 3-pointer to slice the Lakers’ deficit to 97-91 with 1:48 left. But the Lakers ran out of time. Still, the Lakers made progress with reducing Bryant’s offensive load in favor of his younger teammates. “He’s a great facilitator,” Scott said of Bryant. “The one thing when he catches the ball is he draws a lot of attention.”So, as he held the ball at the top of the key, Bryant set Russell up for an open 3-pointer. Later on, Bryant threw Russell a behind-the-back pass that set up an open jumper. The Lakers rarely mastered such an approach in earlier games, something Scott placed less on Bryant and more on everyone else.“They still have to be patient,” Scott said. “They have to keep their spacing. At times we get too bunched up. Our guys are running toward the ball instead of staying where they need to be. He’s one of those guys who can get them the ball right when they need it.”Scott then focused on Russell, whose limited fourth-quarter opportunities coincided with a learning curve with his playmaking, defense and shared ball-handling duties with Bryant.“Sometimes he stands around. These guys are so used to having the ball in their hands. When they don’t, they don’t know what to do,” Scott said. “It’s not the fact they’re selfish or anything. It’s just what they’re used to. I just have to break that habit.”But as the Lakers learned on Friday, those broken habits will not guarantee wins.