Spurs 97, Lakers 82: Dec. 28 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road contest at San Antonio, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Spurs: T. Parker, M. Ginobili, R. Jefferson, D. Blair, T. Duncan

FIRST QUARTER
10:36 So Kobe came out aggressively, to say the least. He opened with a banked jumper, a rattled home deep two, and then a twisting fadeaway in the lane to give the Lakers an early 8-3 lead. All business from No. 24, who made his feelings pretty clear after the loss to Miami that he was ready for L.A. to pick things up.

6:19 While San Antonio managed to get some jumpers to fall, the Lakers continued to look like the team that Phil Jackson said pregame he really wasn’t worried about getting things together with 52 regular season games left, and not the one the got blown out twice consecutively at home. LAL made 7-for-11 shots to take a 16-11 lead and force Gregg Popovich to take a time out. Bryant had eight of the team’s first 10 points, while Artest added two buckets, but off drives to the hoop.

2:03 … And then the offense disappeared for four minutes. Bryant missed four shots and turned the ball over three times (two of them under his personal protest of being fouled), and L.A. wasn’t able to get the ball inside while the Spurs went on a 9-0 run at the other end to open a 20-16 lead. Bynum’s entrance, however, was productive right away, as he changed Tony Parker’s shot on one end and made Tiago Splitter look bad on a baseline spin for a layup at the other. However, that was to be L.A.’s only bucket of the final six minutes, and the Spurs added back-to-back threes from Gary Neal and Matt Bonner (at the buzzer) to end the quarter on a 16-2 run that produced a 27-18 lead after one.

SECOND QUARTER
9:19 OK, take that big Spurs run and completely reverse it towards the purple and gold jerseys… With a bench group of Blake-Barnes-Brown-Gasol-Bynum, L.A. shut the paint down defensively and fed it inside at the other end, producing a 9-0 run with the likes of Bryant, Odom, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker watching from the sideline.

6:15 Brown got yanked after a poor turnover in transition and then a failure to get the ball inside on the next possession (Kobe re-entering), but Odom nailed a three and Gasol an and-1 layup to tie the score at 34. Gasol averaged 21 points and 13 boards against the Spurs last season, and while he’d taken only six shots (making three), his defense was solid, as shown through three blocks and six boards.

0:10.0 Remember how hot Bryant started the game? Well, he would go on to miss his final nine shots of the half, growing frustrated with contact enough to draw double technicals with George Hill, and turned the ball over four times in the half. However, L.A.’s defense was as good as it’s been in a while, its rotations and help crisp as the Spurs managed only 15 second quarter points to L.A.’s 26, producing a two-point halftime lead after being down nine after one.

THIRD QUARTER
7:06 It was starting to get downright odd for Bryant, who literally could not buy a bucket while missing his 11th straight shot, then turning the ball over on the next possession. The Spurs took advantage with a 12-4 run to start the third, opening a 54-48 lead.

3:01 A strange period continued as the Spurs pushed their lead back to nine when Richard Jefferson bumped Fisher on an offensive board opportunity in transition. Fish took exception and sprinted out to midcourt with the ball in hand (obviously drawing a technical) to confront RJ, perhaps attempting to galvanize his team? L.A.’s problem, however, had been a simple inability to hit a shot, making only 3-of-13. This kept them from setting up a halfcourt defense that was effective in the second.

0:00 Once again, L.A.’s bench outplayed its starters (the pine unit won a practice scrimmage the other day) as Bynum scored inside and Barnes hit a triple, but the Spurs got a Blair deuce and Ginobili’s three to reset S.A.’s 9-point lead after three.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:00 The Lakers simply could not get anything to fall through the hoop on offense. It wasn’t that they were playing badly, they just couldn’t shoot. Bynum missed four free throws, Blake and Odom saw easy shots rim out, and S.A. took advantage with a 5-0 run to make it a 76-62 lead.

7:10 Bryant, for one, looked to have finally gotten over the team-wide shooting slump by nailing first a long two and then two longer triples for eight points in two minutes, cutting the Spurs’ lead back within single digits at nine.

3:35 Unfortunately for the Lakers, they weren’t able to generate anything but long jumpers for the next stretch, while Spurs role players Blair and Hill got inside for leaners, just before Ginobili hit a three and then two free throws. That did it, giving the Spurs a 91-72 lead to end L.A.’s night.

The Spurs would end up winning 97-82, riding terrific play from DeJuan Blair (17 points and 15 rebounds) and Tony Parker (23 points) while keeping the ball out of their own paint to hold Gasol without a single second half point. The Lakers played solid defense in the first half in particular, but just couldn’t generate made shots in the second half, which made playing defense more difficult. They’re back at it tomorrow night in New Orleans. Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
38 Lakers points in the second half, including zero from Pau Gasol.

29 Kobe Bryant’s shooting percentage. He nailed his first three shots, then missed all but five of his next 24 shots, for his 21 points.

22 Minutes for Andrew Bynum, his most of the season. The 23-year-old 7-footer made all four of his field goals en route to 10 points with seven rebounds and a block, but missed all but two of his eight free throw attempts. Nonetheless, it was the best he has looked so far this seaosn.

16 Turnovers for the Lakers.

15 Assists for the Lakers.