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We took a look at the Lakers – Spurs contest at the AT&T Center while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to snap a three game road losing streak.
Lakers: Pau Gasol
Spurs: Matt Bonner, Michael Finley
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Bynum
Spurs: Tony Parker, Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair
*Odom continued to start in place of Pau Gasol, missing his fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring.
In a pregame conversation with Stu Lantz, I essentially learned that we can’t learn too much from San Antonio’s early schedule (that make sense? no?). In short, the Spurs have beaten only three +.500 teams in 17 tries, but as Stu explained, we really aren’t sure what that means. Have they been giving their best effort? Gregg Popovich teams generally don’t turn it on until later in the season. Have they been healthy? Ginobili’s still working his way back. Have they played many road games? Not really. Either way, we really don’t know what kind of effort we’ll get from the Spurs in early January. Conclusions and rankings, Lantz said he’d save until the playoffs.
9:21 In Gasol’s absense, Andrew Bynum had put forth three straight double-doubles, and was well on his way to another after making back-to-back buckets inside, both courtesy of nice passes from Lamar Odom. In unrelated news, you gotta appreciate San Antonio’s mascot, which is basically a tall/skinny coyote that started juggling a soccer ball during a time out.
3:27 Kobe Bryant went back to the splint he’d worn after initially injuring his finger in order to get some more support (i.e. strength), and it certainly appeared to be working early as he made his fourth jumper in six attempts to get to nine points. He did, however, head to the locker room with apparent back spasms before returning shortly (this would become an ongoing issue that kept him out of the fourth quarter).
0:03.8 Antonio McDyess made the fifth straight shot for the Spurs to give San Antonio a 27-23 lead after a quarter. The Lakers did well to match the Spurs’ energy, which was superb from the jump.
9:34 Bryant found a way to deal with his back initially, canning a turnaround/fadeaway three as the clock expired on one possession before nailing another jumper on the next. His 6-of-8 had produced 14 points. He’s good.
5:45 The Spurs got a terrific boost from their bench both at the end of the first and early in the second, capped by a George Hill steal of Bryant and resulting dunk. That hoop brought San Antonio’s field goal percentage to nearly 60 percent, enabling a 46-34 lead. By the way, did you know that San Antonio is the state’s second largest city, and seventh-largest in the U.S. with 1.3 million people? FYI.
1:56 Tim Duncan is still very, very good. As one of only three 20-10 guys in the NBA, he’s proven his still-elite status throughout the season; in the first half, he nailed 8-of-12 shots despite close defense from Bynum, helping the Spurs take a 53-41 lead into halftime. As a team, San Antonio hit 56 percent of its shots (roughly the percentage of phone calls that pay off for “The Situation”), while the Lakers managed just 44 percent shooting (more like Vinny).
9:20 The third quarter has generally been kind to the Lakers of late, thanks in part to increased defensive pressure, but the Spurs refused to comply when Parker, Duncan and Jefferson combined to hit five jumpers (three for Parker, and a Jefferson triple) in S.A.’s first six attempts.
5:03 The Spurs continued to hit everything (8-of-9 to open the quarter), but L.A. was able to cut slightly into what had been a 22-point lead when Bynum scored on three straight trips for the Lakers, the third a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Bryant. Speaking of Kobe … he was clearly smarting from those back spasms, deferring both to Bynum and Artest (10 points in the quarter).
0:38.3 Two free throws from Odom cut 10 points off San Antonio’s 22-point lead, giving L.A. at least a puncher’s chance to come back in the fourth quarter. It’d be tough, however, without Kobe Bryant, whose back kept him from attempting even a single shot after hitting 7-of-10 in the first half, and would keep him on the bench (and in the locker room getting treatment) in the final quarter.
8:25 Phil Jackson picked a rather important juncture to send Luke Walton in for the first time since mid November, the Lakers down just nine points after trailing by 22 in the third, and Walton responded by almost immediately converting a tough jumper in the lane to make it a seven-point game.
5:44 What an impressive stretch Walton turned in, all things considered … after that first jumper, he nailed another and then picked off Duncan’s pass in the lane before feeding Farmar for a fast break layup at the other end, cutting San Antonio’s lead to just six…
4:13 … But it took just 1:31 for the Spurs to roll off six straight points, essentially putting the game back on ice. That Bryant was unable to return due to a back injury was particularly ironic since Walton, whose back had kept him out for more than seven weeks, received many of Bryant’s fourth quarter minutes.
As it turned out, the Spurs wound up running the score back up to a 20-point margin (105-85) to close the game, sending L.A. into the second game of a back-to-back in Dallas with a loss.
Until then, your numbers:
0 Shots Kobe Bryant took in the second half, succumbing to back spasms that kept him out of the fourth quarter.
3 Injuries suffered by L.A., including Bryant’s back, a strained groin from Sasha Vujacic and a hurt Ron Artest finger. Pau Gasol missed his fifth straight game with a strained hamstring (though he targets Friday’s game against the Clippers for a return), but on the bright side, Luke Walton returned.
6 Minutes of effective action from Walton, who made two shots and grabbed a steal in his first minutes since mid November.
13 Assists for the Lakers on a tough offensive night.
23 Points from Andrew Bynum despite Tim Duncan’s defense throughout the game, in addition to eight rebounds.
57.3 San Antonio’s field goal percentage on the evening, compared to just 44.2 percent from the Lakers.