Lakers Set for Spurs

Lakers/SpursJanuary 14th’s showdown in San Antonio was one of L.A.’s most hotly-contested games of the year, the result of which was a 112-111 last-seconds lost to the Spurs when Roger Mason Jr. erased Kobe Bryant’s three-pointer with an and-1 play with 10 seconds remaining.

Let’s remind ourselves how it got to that point with a few segments from our running diary:

0:01, First Quarter 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.
This poor end to the quarter would become a habit for the Lakers.

5:05, Second Quarter 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
Another harbinger, as the refs probably didn’t need to blow the whistle on Fisher on Mason Jr.’s final shot, and then buried their sound makers when Ariza was tripped by Ginobili in the lane. But, of course, that’ll happen on the road.

4:13, Third Quarter 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…
Gasol finished with 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting, and didn’t get the ball nearly enough in the fourth quarter as he’d take only two more shots after this possession. Bynum was 9-of-15 for 18 points.

0:00, Third Quarter 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).
Ginobili was huge all game with 27 points in 30 minutes.

4:43, Fourth Quarter JPeezy again! What a time for Josh 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).
Anyone who wasn’t sure if Josh Powell could play ball was quickly proven wrong with a great fourth quarter stretch from L.A.’s free agent acquisition.

And the final 28 seconds:

0:28.0, Fourth Quarter 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.
Bynum had doing a solid job keeping Duncan from getting position, and Gasol shouldn’t necessarily be expected to do the same. Yet and still, that hurt L.A. in the final two minute.

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.
Yeah. Just silly.

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.
In retrospect, it’s clear that Fish shouldn’t have gone for the steal.

0:00.8 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.
Tough play there, it probably should have resulted in free throws, but Ariza and the rest of us can understand why it wasn’t called.

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.

You ready for the rematch?