Consecutive road losses in Phoenix, Denver and Portland over the last week and change seemed to worry a few Lakers fans (you know who you are).
In that case, back-to-back victories in Houston and San Antonio – punctuated as Kobe Bryant’s dagger triple slashed the net with 1:46 remaining to put L.A. up 98-93 – probably changed that tune (admit it).
In Houston, Bryant barely missed a shot in the fourth quarter, netting 18 of his 37 points to lead his team to victory, but against the Spurs he was only 2-of-6 in the final stanza. Let’s just say that Kobe knows which ones he needs to bury, and leave it at that.
So, as much as that single shot helped get L.A. into the end zone (they were in Texas, after all), it was a fantastic 35-17 first quarter and some all-around good defense that ultimately delivered the Lakers’ league-high 52nd victory.
The purple-and-gold clad squad led by 15 at the half and eight after three quarters, but San Antonio would get within three thanks to two things: Tony Parker abusing the pick-and-roll (over, under, didn’t matter) and the team’s knocking down 7-of-8 triples to start the second half. It wasn’t Kobe, however, who answered that run, but instead L.A.’s bench. Particular credit was owed to Josh Powell (board work, two isolation hoops), Luke Walton (running the offense, scoring and dishing) and Sasha Vujacic (two run-stopping jumpers).
Pau Gasol was solid throughout with a team-high (matching Bryant) 23 points, plus 11 boards, three assists, two blocks and a steal in 41 minutes. Lamar Odom was solid particularly in the first half, matching Gasol’s double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, with two blocks and assists of his own. Trevor Ariza played well in his starting role, contributing 10 points with three boards, two assists and most importantly, four steals. Meanwhile, an active Lakers defense largely kept San Antonio from getting any easy buckets, and were not the Spurs on fire from three, the game wouldn’t have been close.
The sum of those parts was simple: a victory.
Shooting percentage from San Antonio, who was on fire in the fourth quarter as they attempted to battle back from what was once an 18-point deficit. The Spurs made a gaudy 11-of-17 threes (64.7 percent).
Bench points by the Lakers in the second half, after just six in the first.
Turnovers forced by the Lakers. Trevor Ariza was the main culprit, with four steals of his own, while five other Lakers grabbed at least one steal.
L.A.’s edge on the glass, 42-33. The Spurs managed only three offensive bboards, while Odom alone had six for the Lakers (11 total).
Assists from Kobe Bryant to lead L.A., as the team managed only 17 dimes on 43 field goals.
Minutes played by new Spur Drew Gooden in his San Antonio debut. Gooden managed two points and four rebounds in that span.
San Antonio’s biggest lead of the game, which came early in the first quarter.