Down by 20 points in the third quarter, the Lakers clawed their way back for an 89-85 win in a game that will no doubt go down as one of the best playoff comebacks in team history.
After an especially quiet first half in which both Coach Jackson and Greag Popovic acknowledged that Kobe was finding his game, Bryant responded in true MVP fashion, taking over the game in the fourth quarter on his way to 27 points and nine assists.
“It was a great opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it and it hurts like hell,” said Popovic after the game.
Jackson said that the early 6:00 p.m. start time played a role in the team’s sluggish first half as they did not fully wake up until around 7:45 p.m.–the team’s normal start time for week night games. As a result, Jackson said he was forced to make several adjustments at halftime with his team trailing 51-43.
“They were fortunate to get a win,” said Jackson. “They almost gave up home court advantage to a great effort by the Spurs.”
Despite moving Pau Gasol (19 points, seven rebounds) to the high post in the third quarter, Tim Duncan’s 30 points and 18 rebounds kept the Spurs moving forward. After the game, Jackson defended his decision to not double team the former MVP with San Antonio’s history of making three pointers off of his double teams.
For the Lakers, as has been the case all season long, their role players came up huge in igniting the team to their second half comeback.
“That’s what good teams do,” said Lamar Odom. “We got everyone involved. And we got 12-14 guys that can always say that, make plays. Vladi started the game hot, Sasha ended the game hot. Pau got going, of course Kobe got going. Everybody had a little run, they were able to make plays and it really helped us.”
Sasha Vujacic–singled out by Jackson for his stellar defense in holding Manu Ginobili to just 10 points–said that the STAPLES Center crowd was a huge factor in the game’s outcome.
“Heart, I think we have a big heart and we didn’t want to give up,” said Vujacic. “It was a huge game for us and I think the crowd at Staples saw that and they stuck with us for 48 minutes and it was great. Whenever somebody has a bad shooting night there are other players that can step-up.”