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.
Lakers: DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
Spurs: Malik Hairston, Ian Mahinmi, Jacque Vaughn
Early Bird Gets the Worm?
This is L.A.’s first “early” game of the season, which piqued my interest regarding how the Lakers preparation changes. Before the game, we asked assistant coach Jim Cleamons how it went down, and Clem explained that the Lakers simply include shootaround activity within the previous day’s practice. So, while going through regular practice drills, Phil Jackson and his staff may employ more team-specific activity regarding their coming opponent that might not be incorporated to the same degree if the next day’s game were at night.
One other note: Because the two teams have a bit of extra time on the court while ABC’s first game (Boston vs. Dallas, Celtics win), we saw some half-speed 1-on-1 between Kobe and Josh Powell (actually, it was Powell laughing and playing token defense while Bryant pump-faked 30 times before shooting) and Vladimir Radmanovic and Pau Gasol (lots of foul calls).
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and ‘Drew
Spurs: Tony Parker, Roger Mason Jr., Michael Finley, Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner
12:00 The Pink Panther delivers the game ball. Literally, all dressed up in the costume and all … Just thought you should know.
11:37 After the Spurs win the tip, Duncan banks in his patented 17-foot jumper over Bynum, who will guard him whenever TD’s on the court even though Bonner’s listed as the starting center.
10:21 A good early sign as Bryant hits his first perimeter jumper from about 19 feet away, over Parker. As Walton had scored from Bryant’s assist on the previous possession, it was 4-2 L.A.
9:27 Mason Jr. picked up foul No. 2, bumping Kobe on a jump shot, to bring Bruce Bowen into the game. Bowen’s appeared to slow this season, and is playing only 20.5 minutes off the bench. Joel Meyers, sitting next to me as ABC has exclusive rights to the game, mentioned that his lack of minutes also reflect the fact that Gregg Popovich is saving him for later in the season and the playoffs in particular.
7:14 Bynum’s first bucket of the contest came on a nice baby hook over Duncan that made it 10-6 Lakers. If Bynum can maintain his level of play from the last two games, it’s a whole different Lakers team.
The Spurs responded by putting in their playoff lineup: Manu Ginobili and Kurt Thomas alongside Duncan, Parker and Bowen. The first shot, from Parker, was destroyed by Bynum, who got his second bucket minutes later on another little hook in the lane.
5:34 Another good sequence for the Lakers came on Bynum’s second block, which preceded Bryant’s third jumper, another swish. ‘Drew’s playing terrific defense, Bryant’s finger appears to be feeling all right (3-of-3 shooting) and as a result, the Lakers took a 16-9 lead.
3:55 A solid move from Duncan nets him his second make in five attempts to cap a 6-0 Spurs run. Worse for the Lakers was Bynum committing an offensive foul on the other end, his second, to bring Lamar Odom off the bench. One other note: Gasol’s had only one field goal attempt, while Fisher’s missed four jumpers. Last time these teams met, Gasol made five consecutive shots in the first quarter.
2:32 Newly-checked in Vujacic left Finley in the corner all by himself to help on Parker, and Finley predictably nailed the triple to bring the Spurs within one. On the next possession for San Antonio, Thomas hit a jumper to put S.A. up 20-19. However, Ginobili joined Mason and Bonner on the bench with two fouls.
0:51 Another questionable defensive possession in which the Lakers didn’t switch on a Finley pick and roll, the former Wisconsin Badger hit another three to make it 23-22 Spurs. Ariza had converted a three-point play for L.A., but that was the Lakers only field goal in the final 5:33 of play.
Perhaps it’s too early for these guys? Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field, making a combined 16-of-41 field goals, and negated one another with two turnovers each. The Spurs had a 13-11 edge on the glass, while the Lakers got to the line nine times (making eight) to just four attempts (three makes) from the visitors. That evened out with Finley’s two threes, while the Lakers missed all four attempts from deep.
12:00 Jordan Farmar checked in for the first time since Dec. 19 (17 games). Though he was active and Jackson said he “might” play, it’s good for Lakers fans to actually see him on the court.
He’d miss his first shot, a triple, with 10:08 remaining, the sixth miss from L.A.
9:16 There’s Farmar’s first positive play, a steal on the baseline, subsequent sprint up the court and drawing of the foul before hitting 1-of-2.
8:10 Alley-oop, Farmar to Ariza for the hammer dunk and a 33-30 lead. “I’m gonna put it there baby, you do the rest,” was Mark Jackson’s call. Thus far, Farmar doesn’t seem to be showing any physical signs that his knee is bothersome, which is consistent with what he’s been telling us recently.
6:31 OK Jordan, Lakers fans are officially glad you’re back. Back-to-back Farmar jumpers, the second from three, put the Lakers up 38-32. That his jumper seems so in-rhythm right away is perhaps a surprise, but one that L.A. will surely welcome.
Farmar again, this time a jumper that countered an open three for Matt Bonner to put L.A. up 35-32.
5:59 Farmar, again. That’s eight points in six minutes, as Fisher builds up his rest on the bench. Ginobili did counter with his first make of the game – a triple – to cut the Lakers lead to three heading into a timeout.
3:57 Four-straight Spurs points, on jumpers from Bonner and Ginobili, and the Spurs were back up a point … At least until Kobe baited Bowen into a reach 20 feet away from the basket. Bryant waited a few extra seconds to pick up the loose ball after Radmanovic found him in the open floor, almost waiting for BB to reach in. He’ll take the free throws.
2:20 Kobe with the Jordan fist-pump, after a deep three-pointer that preceded a slick play in the paint from Odom to cap a 9-0 run for a 49-41 lead, L.A.’s largest of the day.
0:29.5 Duncan and Parker managed hoops near the rim to stop the bleeding.
0:05.9 Ridiculous fall-away jumper from Kobe, with Bonner draped all over him after Ginobili had nearly knocked the ball out of Bryant’s hands. Bryant responded by knocking Ginobili on the floor and fading away to put L.A. up 51-45. Speaking of those two stars, Joel was just mentioning what an outstanding job Bryant’s done on the Argentinean today.
0:04.0 With four seconds left on the clock, we think back to Ginobili’s buzzer-beating tactics from the first game in San Antonio … And even though Fisher again went into the air, Ginobili missed the shot to ensure L.A.’s six-point lead heading into the third quarter.
L.A. picked up their shooting in the quarter, 11-for-21, and turned the ball over only twice in the quarter (four in the first half). Something we need to see more of in the second half? Pau Gasol getting more than three field goal attempts.
10:16 It’s hard to think of a better start to the third quarter for the Lakers. First came a three-pointer from Kobe. Next, a great defensive possession with perfect rotations that netted a 24-second violation. Fisher than canned his first shot of the game, a triple, and L.A. quickly doubled their lead.
Then out of a Spurs timeout, Bynum drew Duncan’s second personal and hit both free throws for a 14-point lead.
8:45 Bynum grabs his eighth rebound already, following up games of 15 and 14 rebounds that were very positive signs after ‘Drew struggled on the glass for two weeks. In fact, Bynum had no more than six rebounds for six straight games prior to the Clippers game, the lowlight of which was were his one, three and three (lack of) efforts against Houston, San Antonio and Orlando.
5:56 Staying on the Bynum front, there he is again, this time on the offensive glass for a put-back slam. That’s 12 points, nine boards and two blocks for ‘Drew, and a 65-53 lead for L.A.
The next offensive possession netted another slam, this time from Pau on Duncan, plus the foul for a game-high 15-point lead.
4:25 Duncan whined for the first time in his career when Walton grabbed Parker in transition, and a flagrant (rightfully) wasn’t called.
3:31 Another Bynum swat of Duncan. Lakers fans could get used to that. Duncan then grabbed Bynum, and after the whistle, PA announcer Lawrence Tanter made sure the officials knew that the Spurs were over the limit. We’ll throw an assist to LT on that one.
2:37 Ariza’s wide-open three was a result of a heady drive-and-kick play from Fisher, who drew three defenders looking for a swat before firing it over to the near-side corner, making it 74-60 Lakers.
0:31.3 Another three from Reggie Miller errr Ariza. Lakers 79-66. That’s 11 points in 14 minutes for Trevor.
The story of the third quarter, however, was not Ariza but Bynum. ‘Drew scored nine of his 15 points in the period, grabbed four boards and blocked two shots while limiting Duncan to five points in the third.
10:58 A new biggest lead comes thanks to back-to-back hoops from Gasol and Farmar, the latter of which Pau set up with a beautiful pass to make it 83-66. That’s 10 points in nine minutes off the bench from Farmar.
9:33 Another gorgeous pass from Gasol, this time over his head to a wide-open Odom under the hoop. That’s four dimes for Pau, plus 14 points and five boards.
8:53 With a very happy Kobe Bryant watching on the bench throughout a great stretch from Farmar, Ariza, Vujacic, Odom and Gasol, Ariza punctuates the effort with a slam in Thomas’ face for L.A.’s largest lead at 87-68 (would grow to 21 with Gasol’s coming free throws). That’s 29 bench points for the home team, compared to 15 for the Spurs.
During the timeout, I wonder if I’m slightly over the top by declaring “Taken” owns one of the best movie trailers I’ve ever seen (the 30 second one on TV is better than the full one, to be fair). Even if this film got the worst reviews ever and was roundly criticized by all of my friends prior to my viewing, I’d pay the Grove’s $14 happily just to reward the trailer.
6:17 A very effective Lamar Odom grabs his 10th board off the bench in 26 minutes.
4:25 Farmar just hit again, this time from three, to get to 13 points in 15 solid minutes off the bench. Talk about an added bonus…
0:00 The Spurs’ bench trimmed that lead a few points in a ultimate 99-85 Lakers victory, as L.A.’s studs watched happily from the sideline. Check back soon for complete postgame reaction.