Lakers – Spurs Running Diary

FarmarAs 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.

Previous Lakers – Spurs Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Spurs Running Diary 1-14-2009
Lakers 111, Spurs 112: Postgame

Lakers – Spurs Running Diary 1-25-2009
Lakers 99, Spurs 85: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Spurs: Manu Ginobili, Ian Mahinmi, Malik Hairston
- The note here is that Drew Gooden is active, and could see floor time for the first time as a Spur.

Starters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Spurs Tony Parker, Roger Mason, Jr., Michael Finley, Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner

One thing stands out above all else for the Lakers tonight: contain Tony Parker. If L.A. can keep Parker relatively out of the lane – either as a passer or a scorer – they’ll most likely win. Tim Duncan has been bothered by tendinosis in his right quad, and he really doesn’t have the lift that he’s used to, and with Manu Ginobili (stress reaction in fibula) out, the Spurs depend entirely upon Parker creating offense.

Odom Pregame
Lamar Odom had a few things to say before the game, noting that he was watching the Rockets game from his hotel room to see how the team played overall as opposed to picking out spots where he could have helped out. He had fun watching his childhood friend from New York Ron Artest go at Kobe Bryant, and said he was surprised at the trash talking:

“Kobe’s one of those players I wouldn’t really want to get going,” said Odom. “But that was the challenge that Ron expected. Kobe usually wins that battle.”

Odom added that he expected Josh Powell to play precisely how he did, saying that Peezy could produce like that every night were he given the minutes. More than anything else, though, Odom was hyped to get back on the floor. Thirsty, even.

First Quarter
12:00 National Anthem singer guy looked like a poor man’s Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights.” Perhaps more interestingly, Tim Duncan never gets introduced last, despite being the best player here forever. I guess that makes sense … Kind of how Duncan rolls. Parker, by the way, gets the nod.

Gasol10:33 Fish dropped a jumper that wasn’t quite as important as his 2004 effort from nearly the same spot on the floor to put L.A. up 4-2. Fish often looks for his offense early in games, and when he’s on, it certainly helps get the purple and gold started (thanks Captain Obvious).

9:58 Who else benefits the Lakers greatly by getting going early? Lamar Odom. Which happened with an and-1 over Bonner, who’s in a tough matchup. I say this because even if Pau or Kobe haven’t gotten going in the first half, they’re so smooth offensively that they can always right the ship, which may not be the case for everyone else.

9:20 Speaking of Bonner, Kobe is also not the best match up in the world for him, but after S.A. had to switch a pick, there was the slow-footed 6-10 center staring at Kobe, who’s jumper swished through the net easily. L.A. then got a defensive stop, pushed the ball and saw Gasol tip in Bryant’s miss to net a 11-4 lead and cost Popovich a timeout.

6:40 L.A. was hotter than Minka Kelly (sticking with the FNL references tonight – we’re in Texas, after all) to start the contest, nailing 9-of-11 shots (81.8 percent) including Ariza’s three-pointer. Trevor had already nailed his first two two-point jumpers, helping L.A. open up 21-9 to cause another Spurs timeout as every Lakers starter had scored. It’s early, but the Houston win certainly seemed to wake the Lakers up.

5:59 Bryant’s drive to the hoop signified L.A.’s 10th straight bucket on an offensive possession. That’s nasty.

3:40 They just won’t stop – Kobe again, another jumper, to give L.A. a 27-11 lead. What’s odd about their scoring burst is almost all the points have come on open jumpers – only two points came in the paint. Meanwhile, on defense, Parker’s had no luck getting into the paint, and the Spurs aren’t getting any early offense.

2:30 L.A. made 14-of-20 shots to open up, with Odom’s put-back and Gasol’s jumper making it 31-15. A defensive board then turned into a missed Kobe shot – which Odom grabbed and stuck back. Seven points, five boards for Lamar. If L.A. were a Texas high school football team, they’d be Dillon High (getting old yet?).

0:10.8 As Kobe drains his fifth jumper of the quarter (not even worried about driving), I learn that Minka Kelly is dating Derek Jeter. Gotta say, Jeter’s really had a rough time finding attractive women.

Alas, Bryant’s hit gave him 10 points, which combined with Gasol’s six, Ariza and Odom’s seven and Fisher’s five gave the Lakers 35 on 64 percent shooting. Just as impressive was L.A.’s active defense, which limited San Antonio to 8-of-18 (44 percent) for only 17 points. Lakers by 18.

Second Quarter
8:51 The Spurs opened the second on a 7-2 run, in part due to L.A.’s falloff in rhythm once Bryant and Odom sat down. First, Vujacic left Finley wide open for a three to help on Mason’s drive (oops), then Farmar made consecutive poor offensive decisions that resulted in zero points.

Duncan8:12 Rookie George Hill checked in for the Spurs, and he too hit a three after Vujacic sagged off. Sasha’s rough few minutes continued as he fouled Parker in transition for his third foul, resulting in two Parker free throws (missed one) that cut the lead to nine. S.A. had out-scored L.A.’s second unit 11-2 in four minutes with Bryant on the bench.

5:56 Bryant checked back in and L.A. suddenly scored six straight points to go up 43-31. This may or may not be a coincidence. Bryant’s +/- was a game-high 21, while Vujacic was -9.

3:48 A four-point swing occurred when Parker, an 81.5 percent free throw shooter, missed two (1-of-4 on the night) before Mbenga knocked in a jumper. D.J. then cleared a defensive board, which eventually turned into an Odom putback that gave L.A. a 47-31 lead.

3:32 The Drew Gooden in San Antonio era began with a big cheer from the home crowd. It’ll be interested to see what the dude who grew a goatee on the back of his dome can offer.

3:12 Don’t lie. You never saw this coming: “L.A. called its inbounds play for D.J. Mbenga, and he nailed a 17-foot jumper.” Well, it happened, and it was all net. D.J. hasn’t missed from the junction in a week.

0:53.0 Gooden hit his first shot, a baseline fall-away to negate Bryant’s jumper, then boarded a Gasol miss that resulted in Parker’s pull-up in transition to cut the lead from 17 to 13.

0:02.7 Pau made up for that miss by canning a nice lil’ stop-and-go hook to make it 53-38, capping a very impressive first half for the good guys.

GasolThe Lakers shot 53.2 percent, cooling down a bit from the torrid first quarter (64 percent), but turned the ball over just twice and scored 18 points in the paint to just eight from the Spurs. L.A. definitely did its job in containing Parker, holding him to five points on 2-of-6 shooting, though he did manage six assists.

Third Quarter
Lakers fans can certainly be happy with the first half performance, but keep this in mind: Tim Duncan is absolutely not moving well. He’s picking his spots, at best, and that makes a big difference to what San Antonio does.

Parker11:04 After Finley hit a jumper when L.A. went under the high screen, Bonner’s three looked way off, and hit the back rim before bouncing 15 feet in the air … then it fell through. Swish. Lead cut to 10.

8:46 Ariza’s been rewarded with his aggressiveness today by making 4-of-5 shots, including a tough drive to the hole plus the foul. He hit the free throw to put L.A. back up 14.

8:35 Scary play at first: Duncan slammed into Fisher (looked like a block, called a charge), and Fish fell into Odom. This was a bit similar to Bryant falling into Bynum, but Odom was able to react quicker, and got up after only four seconds or so, beginning to walk it off. He was still laboring slightly when Bryant shot free throws moments later, but seemed to be fine.

6:44 L.A. wasn’t rewarded with a really good defensive possession, as San Antonio worked it around for nearly 20 seconds before Parker finally got open and hit a triple…

… But Fisher answered with a triple of his own to put the lead back at 12.

5:30 Parker began to assert himself, calling his own number on offense first to get two free throws, then to pull up on Fish. He did miss one foul shot, but nonetheless managed to cut L.A.’s lead below 10 (always mentally important), chipping six points off the halftime lead. That’s sort of like when you’re at, say, In-N-Out Burger, and you get to the 3/4 mark of your Double-Double. You may not finish it, but at least you know you’re capable. That’s you, though – I usually finish because I get it plain, which goes down a lot cleaner.

4:20 Remember the key to the game for L.A.? Contain Parker. Well, he just broke down the entire Lakers defense for a stupid layup, and the lead was at seven.

3:36 True to form tonight, L.A. had an answer. First Fisher hit a long jumper, then Gasol played tough D on Duncan, grabbed the board and then drew Timmy’s foul at the other end to put L.A. back up 11. The look on Duncan’s face after that was a lot like any character not named Jason in “Friday the 13th.” Oops … Friday Night Light’s theme … OK, like Matt Saracen’s expression after learning Coach Taylor was going with the freshman at QB.

1:56 Great one-minute sequence from sub Luke Walton. First came a driving pass to Gasol, who missed, resulting in Walton’s offensive board and put back. Walton then immediately stole a pass, with the ball finding Farmar for a breakaway dunk that made it 75-62.

P.S. – L.A. was all over S.A. on the glass, 34-26, helping them get 10 more field goal attempts.

0:29.9 Vujacic jumper off Odom’s screen negated another Parker hoop.

0:07.4 Yikes. Terrible sequence for L.A. Farmar stepped out of bounds after receiving the inbounds pass, which allowed the Spurs the quarter’s final shot. Parker took advantage, blowing right by Farmar and pulling up in the lane for a hoop, plus the foul. So, instead of a guaranteed 11-point edge or potential 13/14-point lead, San Antonio trailed by only eight. Yet and still, you’ll take an eight-point lead heading into the fourth in S.A. if you’re L.A. In fact, last time the Lakers were in San Antonio, the Spurs took an eight-point lead of their own into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
The only non-negative player in the +/- off L.A.’s bench is Mbenga. Farmar, Vujacic, Powell and Walton will need to find something here if L.A.’s going to protect the lead with Odom and Bryant on the bench….

… But that definitely didn’t happen in the first minute. Instead, Mason Jr. hit a triple and Udoka dunked off a steal at midcourt to cut the lead to three.

10:49 Thanks to Walton, Pau responded with an and-1 … Before Finley nailed his fourth triple. Finley was fantastic to that point, nailing 8-of-12 shots for a team-high 22 points.

9:54 Powell nicely took advantage of a mismatch with Ime Udoka checking him, turning around for a baseline J (-Peezy). L.A. went right back to the mismatch a possession later, and Powell rewarded them by grabbing his own narrow miss and sticking it back. L.A. by seven*. This seems a good time to mention that last night in the San Antonio hotel elevator, I rode up with two of the world’s best people: TNT’s Kevin Harlan, who’s calling this game, and J-Peezy. Peezy and I were arguing over our latest playlist (wait for it tomorrow, it’s a hip-hop draft), with Harlan nodding approval as I lauded the Wu Tang Clan. Harlan then heartily shook hands with Powell, who nodded his own approval of Harlan. Everybody won.
*This became eight when Mason’s jumper was ruled a two, 85-77.

Odom8:15 Hand it to Vujacic for canning another shot after such a tough few minutes in the second quarter. Both of his jumpers came at key times for the Lakers here with Kobe getting some extra rest, and the second put L.A. back up 10. Walton then converted a pretty Gasol pass to make it 89-77, and just like that, the bench had more than done its job.

5:36 Fish and Kobe had checked in with a 10-point lead at the 7:18 point, and the teams immediately traded hoops (Thomas, Bryant, Parker, Walton), which isn’t what the Spurs needed. In related news, Ty Nowell just IM’d me that he likes what Luke’s done tonight, and I’d have to strongly agree: Six points, four boards and an assist in 15 minutes don’t tell the story, because his main contribution was running the show for the second unit much like he told Phil Jackson he’d do. Searching for my next FNL’s reference, I was trying to think which character could play basketball, before realizing that they’re all under six feet. The show doesn’t even really use offensive or defensive lineman, and the LB’s are all small. So, maybe a pre-spine injury Jason Street?

4:18 The epitome of Spurs offense: Parker gets around a Duncan screen-and-roll, rotates the ball to the weak side, where the extra pass is made for a corner three. Finley hit it (his fifth). Walton then missed a jumper, but Parker’s hit made it a five-point game with just over three to play.

3:08 Pau. Dunk. Great pass from Kobe. Alas, this is a gritty comeback from the Spurs, who aren’t getting much from Duncan.

2:18 Key to this game? Contain Tony Parker. Again. Contain Tony Parker. You can’t keep going under screens on him or he’ll hit threes (like the one he just dropped to make it 95-93). But if you go over the screen, he’ll drive right by you. He’s tough. The Spurs, by the way, have gotten back into the game by hitting 11-of-16 threes, including 7-of-8 in the second half.

1:46 Mamba. Wow. There’s the almost unfair hit for L.A., a pull-up contested three-pointer. Lakers 98, Spurs 93.

1:20 Great three-man game work resulted in Gasol’s layup off Odom’s pass and Bryant’s dish out of the double-team, good to counter Duncan’s hoop.

0:19.7 When the Lakers needed an outstanding defensive possession, they sure got it, scrambling and recovering to concede just a forced Finley jumper in the lane, which Vujacic cleared off the glass. Sasha then dribbled around for a good seven seconds before finally getting fouled, and then nailing both free throws for a seven-point lead.

Sure enough, that was that. L.A. emerged from a tough building with a 102-95 victory just a day after Wednesday’s tough win in Houston, completing an impressive Texas two-step that left L.A. at 52-13, the league’s best record by two games over Cleveland.