Basketball

Raptors no match for Lakers

Kobe Bryant scored 23 points to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-99 win over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

In a battle of NBA most valuable player contenders, it was Kobe Bryant who emerged the clear winner over Chris Bosh.

Bryant, last season's league MVP, scored 23 points to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-99 win over Bosh and the visiting Toronto Raptors on Sunday night

Touted as a potential repeat winner of the MVP crown, Bryant also recorded seven rebounds and five assists to send Los Angeles (14-1) to its seventh consecutive victory. The Lakers' lone loss this season was 106-95 against Detroit on Nov. 14.

Bryant sat out the entire fourth quarter, finishing 15 points shy of the 22,000-point mark for his NBA career.

"The first quarter was a little bit of a slow start for us defensively, but then we were able to dig our heels in and get used to the rhythm," Bryant said.

"We tried to corral Bosh a little bit. They had some double-digit deficits and the rhythm of the game was kind of getting away from them a little bit. They were looking to take some three-point shots in transition and kind of got away from going to him a little bit."

Bosh, who last week said he's determined to win the MVP award as the NBA's best player this season, finished with 12 points (4-for-13 shooting from the floor) for Toronto.

"I know that good teams are not going to let me just get off offensively," said Bosh, who came in averaging a career-best 27.7 points per game. "They did a great job of trapping and their rotations were really good. I didn't get too many good shots all night and I made some costly turnovers."

Anthony Parker led Toronto with 19 points and five teammates also scored in double figures. Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine rebounds for Los Angeles.

The Lakers have now won seven consecutive home games against the Raptors (8-8), a streak that includes a 122-104 win on Jan. 22, 2006, when Bryant scored 81 points, the second-highest total in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain's astonishing 100 points back in 1962.

Toronto has not earned a win on the Lakers' home court since Dec. 28, 2001.

Raptors forward Jermaine O'Neal sat out his third consecutive game due to a sprained left ankle.

Toronto shot a season-low 37.5 per cent from the floor, compared to a whopping 51.1 field goal percentage for Los Angeles.

Parker drained a three-pointer to cut the Los Angeles lead to three points with just over two minutes left in the second quarter.

But Bryant, who bagged 21 points (shooting 8-for-11) in the first half, scored three consecutive buckets to end the quarter and send the Lakers into the halftime break with a 61-51 advantage.

With his team sitting on a comfortable nine-point advantage after the third, Bryant took a seat on the bench for the fourth quarter and watched Andrew Bynum and the Lakers' substitutes go on a 17-4 run that gave Los Angeles a 107-88 lead with 5:50 left in regulation.

Bynum finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, despite playing with a bone spur in his right foot.

The Raptors continue their West Coast road swing this week with games against the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz before returning home to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 7.

With files from Associated Press