Lakers – Spurs Running Diary

As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Inactives
Lakers: Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton
Spurs: Malik Hairston, Ian Mahinmi

The first dime of the night went not to Tony Parker or Derek Fisher, but to Spurs.com for hooking us up with an ethernet cord to make up for the lack of wireless effectiveness. We’re good now, but will have to skip any pre-tip reporting.

Starters
Lakers Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
Spurs Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Roger Mason Jr., Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner

First Quarter
8:10 Mason Jr. canned his second-consecutive jumper, the first a triple, to put the Spurs up 11-8. Gasol answered with his third bucket as the two teams combined to make 12-of-15 shots, a ridiculous 80 percent.

Yesterday in Houston, we were quite surprised to see Gasol struggle for the second-consecutive game with his shooting, but he’s anything but cold to start this one.

6:49 In fact, just the opposite: Pau’s officially on fire. That’s his fifth make in six attempts.

4:35 Seriously, the Spaniard’s in some kind of rhythm, nailing another jumper to hit the 12-point margin. After missing his second shot, Gasol’s swished five straight. As a team, the Lakers are 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) to take a 20-15 lead.

3:37 There’s RMJr. again, bombing threes. Remember, Mason Jr.’s the former Wizards castoff that’s now third in the NBA in three-point shooting at 46.9 percent, trailing only teammate Matt Bonner (47.5 percent) and the Suns’ Jason Richardson (47.3 percent).

1:54 A quick 7-2 run, courtesy of four of Parker’s 10 points, tied things up at 22. Two turnovers sparked the steak, first as Bryant didn’t get a call at midcourt when Thomas seemed to kick the ball out of his hand, and second when Fisher, Bryant and Gasol couldn’t finish off a 3-on-1 fastbreak.

0:36.9 Manu Ginobili stripped Bryant near the free throw line and drove the length of the floor for a dunk that brought the Spurs within one point. I was just about to write a post about Bryant jumping eight feet straight up for a defensive rebound until Manu out-shined him.

0:01 An ill-advised play from the Lakers to close the quarter occurred as Gasol attempted to inbound the ball to Trevor Ariza, who let rookie George Hill jump in front of him for a steal. Instead of letting Hill heave up an attempt from half court, Ariza bumped him and gave Hill three free throws. The IUPUI product missed the first, but sank the second two that put San Antonio up 30-29 despite being outplayed by the Lakers.

L.A. shot a fantastic 65 percent from the field (thanks in part to Gasol’s 7-of-9 for 14 points), but coughed the ball up five times, including four times in the final few minutes to allow the Spurs to stay right in the thick of the contest.

Second Quarter
10:26 The league’s best three-point shooter and “Reddest Hair” award winner (Bonner) canned his first of the game to follow Ginobili’s triple and erase Laker buckets from Bynum and Odom.

9:27 Bynum ties his rebound total from last night (1). Then, as Bryant’s stripped again in the lane, Odom hustles back to swat Hill at the rim, but is whistled for the foul anyway. That was a close one … It still ended up being a good play, as Hill missed 1-of-2. Bryant was subbed out on the foul shots with Bryant taking his first rest of the evening, and Fisher coming back in after playing the whole first quarter. Here’s where you miss Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic if you’re a Lakers’ coach.

8:51 Bynum hits again for his fourth straight make, putting him and Gasol at a collective 11-of-13. Remember that in Houston, the two combined to shoot 8-of-21 for the game.

6:30 Great ball movement from the Lakers results in Fisher’s first three-pointer and a 41-41 tie. Bynum would score on the next possession, still perfect from the field, before Bryant’s third bucket had the Lakers making 20-of-30 shots on the tail end of a back-to-back.

5:05 Usually home teams don’t show replays of questionable calls that go their way, but that’s precisely what the AT&T Center folks did when Duncan got the benefit of the doubt on a Gasol swat. It was clean, but Duncan hit 1-of-2 free throws. Gasol answered with another jumper, his first points of the quarter, to make it 48-47 Spurs. Pau’s been very aggressive with Duncan guarding him for most of the game, backing down not at all.

3:31 Ginobili’s second three-pointer answered a super tough (for most players) hanging jumper plus the harm from Bryant…

3:20 … Before Bryant answered again with an and-1 jumper, Manu doing the fouling. Six quick points got Bryant up to 12.

2:38 Ginobili again, for three, San Antonio’s sixth in 12 attempts (L.A. was 3-of-5). That made the score 56-53 as both teams were right at the 60 percent shooting mark.

1:20 Bonner’s second triple followed another Ginobili make (this time in the lane), as the Argentinean hit 6-of-7 shots to start the game. Make it 7-of-8 after another jumper countered Fisher’s three.

41.5 Kobe’s turn, another jumper as he goes 7-of-10, matching Manu shot-for-shot (wait, Kobe likes to play the alpha dog game????).

In what’s been like a playoff game, in January, the Spurs took a 63-61 lead into the half behind 19 from Ginobili, 10 each from Parker and Bonner and nine from Duncan. Four of L.A.’s starters were in double-figures at the break, led by Gasol (17), Bryant (16), Fisher and Bynum (10 each).

The teams combined to make 51-of-84 shots (60.7 percent), which is an exceptionally high number for a half. One number that might disturb the Lakers is the lack of contribution off the bench (eight points, three boards, three assists, collectively). Bryant, Fisher and Gasol were both on pace to play over 40 minutes, while Parker, Ginobili and Duncan are projected at closer to 30. We’ll see if that becomes a factor in the second half, especially because the Spurs have been off since Sunday and L.A. had to go down to the wire last night.

Third Quarter
San Antonio’s key in the first half was seeing Ginobili playing, by far, his best half of the season: hitting 7-of-8 shots (before missing his final two) including three triples for 19 points; collecting three steals, including two swipes of Bryant; dishing two dimes and grabbing two boards. That kind of production, in less then 14 minutes, is what Spurs fans have been waiting for all season.

Lakers fans, however, can be happy that despite Ginobili’s white-hot shooting, eight turnovers, seven Spurs threes and only four second-chance points, L.A. was only two points down.

11:37 Bynum and Pau weren’t slowing down on the first possession of the third, as Bynum abused Bonner to get a great look. When it rimmed out, Gasol stuck it right back. Bynum’s low-post game has been leaps and bounds better in the last week than it had been all season.

9:28 With Duncan driving to his left, Bynum stayed with him for three steps and swatted his shot attempt. I’m not sure why L.A.’s bench wasn’t up cheering for that one… Yet and still, the Spurs led by five thanks to another RMJr. three and a Parker jumper.

8:48 Phil Jackson warned of the Spurs third quarter starts before the game, and his fear came true on a 7-0 run capped by RMJr.’s pull-up jumper (after which he slapped himself on the butt. Whatever) that made it 70-63.

8:22 Key run-stopping three from Fisher.

7:39 Bruce Bowen was long one of the best defenders in the league, and one of the best answers to Kobe. But after watching Bryant blow by Bowen repeatedly tonight, it appears that Bruce may have lost a step, and is relying more on his veteran savvy (like jersey grabbing and charge drawing) to make his money.

6:35 Fish again, from three. That’s his fourth three in four attempts, while he’s missed his only two from within the three-point line. Clearly he should stick to 23+ feet. Alas, a one-point game, 74-73 Spurs, as the Lakers have eliminated the home team’s third quarter start.

4:13 Bynum, going right into Duncan, makes his second-straight shot in the paint to get to 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He and Gasol have now combined to make 16-of-24 shots (67 percent) against one of the league’s best interior defenses, though San Antonio still led by a point. This game is shaping up much like the Houston contest, with the Rockets playing extremely hard and shooting the ball great as the undermanned Lakers fought right back to stay in the contest until Kobe took over late. We’ll see if the second half of that action holds true…

By the way, Duncan’s on triple-double watch with 15 points (check), eight boards (guaranteed) and seven assists (maybe).

2:28 As Fisher gets beat on consecutive plays by Tony Parker, things don’t look great for the fourth quarter. Parker’s barely started to attack yet, and Fisher’s already played 31 minutes. Parker followed a layup by missing both free throws, though San Antonio still led 84-79. The Spurs biggest lead would come a possession later when Gasol didn’t pop out to contest Thomas’ open jumper.

1:33 Sun Yue into a tight game. Fisher clearly needed a blow.

1:10 Hill’s corner three didn’t help L.A.’s cause, putting them in an 89-80 hole that’s going to take something special to climb out of. Again, not only are the Spurs rested well in general and fully healthy, but their stars have played far fewer minutes tonight.

32.3 A quick answer came on a four-point run courtesy of Odom and Ariza chopped that lead to five.

11.3 Ginobili, snubbed in the Golden Globes last week, did his best impersonation of taking a bullet on the court as he attempted to shoot over Ariza. It’s hard to tell if Ariza got a piece of the ball or actually hit Ginobili, but the refs bought the exaggeration and put Manu on the line for three free throws. That’s a killer for L.A.

4.9 Maybe not? Ariza took personal vengeance in nailing a baseline three to cut the lead back to five.

0.00 Yup. Ginobili, not to be outdone, nailed a three at the buzzer. Even more of a killer than his play-acting. Let’s give Manu full credit for the dagger triple, and take full insult for his gunshot wound to the chest.

With that crazy sequence of nine points in 11 seconds, the Spurs took a commanding 95-87 lead into the fourth. The Spurs actually picked up their shooting in the third (57.1 percent) while the Lakers came back to earth (45 percent).

Fourth Quarter
11:18 L.A. can’t seem to get a call as Finley draws a Powell foul on a bump, then shoots two seconds later to get the continuation play and an 11-point lead.

10:15 Bynum, another impressive move right in Duncan’s face, gives him 16 on 8-of-13. Back in single digits.

7:54 After Fisher’s jumper rimmed out, Hill’s went down to put the lead back at 11. Crucial few inches there, from a seven-point game to an 11. With Bryant on the bench, L.A. would lose two points to the Spurs. Generally, you’d like to be within about 10 points of the lead with at least six minutes left to make a legit comeback attempt. Does Kobe have enough magic for this?

6:16 A possession after scoring on Duncan, Bynum picked his pocket at the other end. The kid’s effort has been quite impressive against Mr. NBA Champ/Defensive Team Anchor/All-Star.

5:57 Kobe’s triple came from just in front of the Spurs bench. Tough, contested shot, and a six-point game.

5:25 Josh Powell pick-and-pop with Kobe. Swish. Two straight jumpers in the quarter for Powell, and L.A. was suddenly within four before Odom stole the ball from Parker…

4:43 JPeezy again! What a time for Powell to hit his third straight jumper. We’ve said all season that he’s very good from 18 or so feet in, though he hadn’t had a chance to prove it in pressure before tonight. Two-point game, 102-100, after L.A.’s 11-2 run, all with Fisher on the bench and Ariza/Odom helping Bryant in the backcourt. The crowd’s getting antsier than Hulk Hogan when walking towards the Venice Beach outdoor gym… (not sure where that random reference came from, sorry).

3:39 Ariza’s tip-in off Bryant’s miss negated Ginobili’s bucket. Seconds later, as Duncan shot two free throws, Bynum and Powell went out in favor of Gasol and Fisher. We’ll see if the two subs can match the fantastic few minutes from the Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Powell-Bynum unit. They have three more points to make up, with the Spurs sitting on a 105-102 game.

3:37 Editor’s Note Couldn’t see this at the time, but Fisher returned from the locker room with trainer Gary Vitti after suffering a groin tweak you hear about from John Ireland were you watching the broadcast.

2:10 Pick and pop, this time with Gasol and Kobe … Swish from Pau. L.A.’d come all the way from 11-down in the fourth to take the lead.

1:42 Fantastic defensive possession from the Lakers results in a Parker 24-second violation.

1:31 Kobe. Finish at the rim after exploding left. Three-point lead. Wow.

1:15 Duncan, isolated on Gasol on the low block, managed to convert in the lane to make it 108-107 L.A.

0:48.6 Fisher, forced to take a tough shot as the shot clock expired, missed.

0:28.0 Duncan, again on Gasol, again a hook and again a make. Spurs lead by one. Was it a mistake to take Bynum off Duncan? ‘Drew had done a great job in keeping Duncan out a few more feet than he got twice against the slighter Pau… The ball goes back to L.A., down one.

0:12.0 MAMBA! You know what that means. From three. Deeeeeep from three, a stone-cold pull-up for a two-point Lakers lead. Ridiculous.

0:10.5 Roger Mason Jr., from just inside the free throw line, not only took contact from Fisher, but made the shot plus the free throw. One-point Spurs lead. That one hurts. Fisher had gone for the steal, missed the ball, and as he was off balance couldn’t get out of Jr.’s way as the two-guard rose up, drew contact and swished the baseline jumper. Plus the free throw.

0:008 Could Kobe do it again? No. After Bryant drew an aggressive double, he passed out to Ariza at the three-point line. Ariza took a dribble in the lane, and was called for traveling. Really tough not to get a shot up there, much like the Pacers and Rockets weren’t able to do in two of L.A.’s three last wins, particularly with Bryant hitting everything in the clutch of late. But Kobe made the right play, and Ariza simply couldn’t come through, as he may have been tripped but didn’t get the call on the road.

Spurs win, 112-111 after an unreal comeback attempt from the Lakers in a game that could have easily doubled as a Western Conference Finals showdown.