Updated: January 25, 2010, 1:30 PM ET

1. Turkoglu Finally Plays The Hero With Raptors

By Dave McMenamin
ESPN Los Angeles

TORONTO -- The game-winning shot Kobe Bryant missed in the Raptors' 106-105 victory over the Lakers on Sunday looked pretty familiar to Hedo Turkoglu.

The last game winner Turkoglu hit, nearly nine months ago in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia, was from essentially the same spot on the court.

That 3-pointer in the face of the Sixers' Thaddeus Young with 0.9 seconds left to break an 81-81 tie was the biggest shot of Turkoglu's five-year run with the Magic. If he had missed it, Philly would have had a chance to win in overtime, take a 3-1 series lead and become the favorite to win the series in upset fashion.

Instead, he made it, Orlando made an improbable run to the Finals and Turkoglu, a part-time starter at the beginning of his career in Sacramento and San Antonio and a third option for most of his time with the Magic, found himself hitting the summer as one of the hottest names on the free-agent market.

The 6-foot-10 forward with the handle and shooting stroke of a guard was courted aggressively by Portland before settling on a five-year, $53 million deal with Toronto.

That's where his happy story ended. Turkoglu's career took a quick turn from exhilaration to frustration.

The Raptors started the season just 7-13, and Turkoglu took a lot of the blame. He complained to the media as recently as two weeks ago that he had yet to find his rhythm in Toronto's system, telling the Toronto Sun, "It's hard for me to tell you right now that I can run down the side and just expect to be a spot-up guy after the past three years being the point guard and leading the team and making those decisions."

Even with the Raptors clawing their way back toward .500, Turkoglu heard resounding boos from fans at the Air Canada Centre for his scoring average dipping from 16.8 last season to 12.6 this season and his rebounds, assists, steals and shooting percentage all following the same downward spiral.

But he might have finally found some of that old magic Sunday.

Before Bryant's final shot rimmed out, the ball was put in Turkoglu's hands at the top of the key with 11.4 seconds left and Toronto trailing by one. The play developed similarly to the one in the Sixers game back in April, but this time, instead of staying on the perimeter, Turkoglu put the ball on the floor and dribbled to the paint on Pau Gasol when the Lakers switched after Chris Bosh screened Ron Artest.

Turkoglu got the foul call (Gasol's take: "It was a questionable call. ... I don't think I pushed him, at all. ... My arm was on his back, but I never pushed him.") and sunk two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to put the Raptors ahead for good.

The Raptors' fans almost didn't know how to react, waiting with bated breath for him to miss, only to explode into delayed cheers when they realized he had done what they had been waiting for while they welcomed him with a half-season of disappointed jeers.

"[Raptors coach] Jay [Triano] had the confidence to give me the ball, and I was able to do something to help the team win, so I am happy about that," Turkoglu said. "Hopefully this will help me get over the hump and play much better."

Turkoglu's overall output wasn't staggering -- he had just nine points on 1-for-6 shooting, two rebounds and five assists -- but what matters is that he was the finisher. He was Hedo the hero.

"He has struggled, but it's just him getting used to it, and we have to keep giving him the basketball," Triano said. "That is who we wanted to have the basketball."

Maybe from now on, Toronto fans will want that, too.

Dave McMenamin writes about the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Dimes past: Jan. 4 | 5 | 6 | 8-9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15-16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 22-23

2. Even Injured, Kobe Makes Lakers Better

Dave McMenamin
ESPN Los Angeles
Bryant
Bryant

TORONTO -- His turnaround toss from 37 feet away that left his heavily bandaged right index finger as time expired rimmed out, denying him his fourth buzzer-beating game winner of the season, but there's no denying anymore that he makes the Lakers better when he's on the court, nine fingers and all.

Bryant shot south of 50 percent (11-of-24) for the eighth time in his past 10 games, but would the Lakers even have had a chance in their 106-105 loss to the Raptors if not for Bryant's 27 points, career-high 16 rebounds, game-high nine assists and a steal and a block mixed in?

When Bryant made his annual trek to the Mecca of hoops, Madison Square Garden, on Friday, the national media assembled implored whether he planned on shutting it down to let the finger heal considering his recent shooting struggles (he came into Sunday shooting just 24-for-74 -- 32.4 percent -- in his last three games) and he scoffed at the notion.

"I've thought about it [for about two, three seconds]," Bryant said. "It's broken. I have a break in two places. It's not going to go anywhere if I sit out. I can still play and let it heal on its own. If I hit it, it's not going to break anymore. It's just going to be sore. The healing is still the same if I sit out."

To read the entire McMenamin column, click here.

3. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Sunday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.

4. Kaman Powers Clippers Past Wizards

Elias Sports Bureau
Bryant
Kaman

Chris Kaman scored 20 points in the Clippers' 92-78 victory at Washington. Kaman, who scored 23 points against the Wizards last month, became only the fifth center to post two 20-point games in the same season in head-to-head starts against Brendan Haywood. The others are Shaquille O'Neal (2004-05 and 2005-06), Dwight Howard (2006-07), Andrew Bogut (2007-08) and Amare Stoudemire (2007-08).

More from Elias Sports Bureau

5. Breaking Down The Clippers' Defense

Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Thornton
Thornton

LOS ANGELES -- The reserve unit is particularly stingy during its second and fourth quarter stints. The backups pressure Caron Butler with double-teams early in the second, denying Washington a chance to establish any offensive rhythm. In the fourth quarter, with the Clippers hanging on to a three-point lead, there's a different defensive dynamic on the floor, but the unit led by Mardy Collins produces the same result: It's an incredible flurry of activity. Collins, Rasual Butler and Al Thornton each records a block shot within a 90-second stretch upon checking in.

Thirty seconds later, Chris Kaman cuts off a Caron Butler baseline drive and swats away yet another Washington attempt. Though the Wizards waste multiple possessions early in the game taking ill-advised early jumpers, they're unable to get anything resembling a clean look when the Clippers make their stand late.

To read the entire blog entry, click here.

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