Kobe Bryant didn't need a huge game to dismantle the Toronto Raptors, just one good look with a few seconds left on the clock.
The Lakers superstar drained a long fadeaway jumper from the baseline with 4.2 seconds to play Sunday to lift Los Angeles to a 94-92 victory over the Raptors.
The Lakers' victory spoiled an excellent afternoon for Jose Calderon, who scored a career-high 30 points for Toronto (9-20), and came after the Raptors had battled back from an 18-point deficit.
"That's his instinct, especially late in the game, that's why you really can't have a close game," Toronto's DeMar DeRozan said of the Lakers star who famously dropped 81 points on the Raptors back in 2006.
Linas Kleiza added 15 points, Leandro Barbosa finished with 12 and DeRozan doled out a career-high seven assists in what was very nearly the Raptors' second consecutive big upset, coming two days after Toronto beat the Boston Celtics.
The game's final few seconds drew angry boos from the crowd of 19,311 at Air Canada Centre — just shy of a sellout — after Rasual Butler tried to call a timeout on Toronto's possession with 3.6 seconds left. Officials ruled Butler didn't signal for the timeout before the allowable five seconds to inbound the ball, giving possession to the Lakers.
'I didn't go to college but I can count. It was five seconds, good defence on our part.'— Lakers star Kobe Bryant on Sunday's five-second violation call
Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who was also hollering for a timeout from the bench, was livid with the call, but bit his tongue after the game for fear of being fined by the league.
"I like my money, what little money I make I like it, so I'm not going to comment on it," said Casey. "It's a tough call."
Bryant said the refs made the right call.
"I wasn't surprised because it was five seconds," Bryant said. "I didn't go to college but I can count. It was five seconds, good defence on our part."
The Lakers galloped out to an 18-point first-quarter lead in what looked like the beginning of a long afternoon for the Raptors and their fans.
But Toronto chipped away at L.A.'s lead to make a game of it, and trailed just 73-67 heading into the fourth quarter. Calderon's second of back-to-back three-pointers with 3:13 left pulled the Raptors even at 84-84.
Ed Davis then slammed home a huge dunk, and Kleiza scored on a hook shot to put Toronto up 88-84 with 2:11 to go, bringing the crowd to its feet.
The fans didn't sit down over the final thrilling two minutes that saw Bryant drain a three, then feed Metta World Peace — formerly Ron Artest — for a basket to put the Lakers up by one with 31 seconds to play. Calderon then connected on a long jump shot with 17 seconds left before Bryant, taking an inbounds pass from World Peace, stepped back to sink what would be the winning basket from the baseline in the dying seconds.
"It's tough, it's always tough to lose a close game like that when you've dug yourself out of a hole," Casey said. "I was proud how we dug ourselves out, but not happy with how we dug the hole.
"Two great efforts against two of the top teams in the league."
Calderon's previous career-high of 27 points came almost four years ago to the day — Feb. 11, 2008 versus San Antonio. The Raptors guard, however, shrugged off his performance that came two nights after he dished out 14 assists, with no turnovers, against Boston.
"It doesn't matter, we lost so I don't care," Calderon said. "It's tough, when we had a chance to beat another great team like L.A. But we couldn't today so we've got to grab the positive part, we can compete against everybody, we've got to believe we can do it."
The game was the third in a tough seven-game homestand for Toronto. The New York Knicks are in town Tuesday, followed by the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Pau Gasol added 16 points and 17 rebounds, while Andrew Bynum added 14 points for the Lakers (16-12), who were coming off a loss on Friday to overnight phenom Jeremy Lin and the Knicks.
The Lakers led 34-19 after the first quarter as the Toronto offence shot just 30 per cent from the field.
The Raptors shot 67 per cent in the second and James Johnson went coast-to-coast for a driving dunk with less than a second left in the half to cut the Lakers' lead to 54-46 at the break.
Calderon padded his point total with seven in the third as the Raptors cut the Lakers' lead to three points on three separate occasions before the Lakers went up 73-67 with a quarter left to play.