Monthly Archive for February, 2011

Page 4 of 5

Lakers, Celtics and the Board Battle

Is it this simple?

Whichever arch basketball rival gathers more rebounds wins the game?

Well, it was certainly the case for the tightly contested 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics:

2010 Finals Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Boards: L.A. 42-31 (Gasol, 14)
Game 2 Celtics 103, Lakers 94
Boards: Boston 44-39 (Rondo, 12)
Game 3 Lakers 91, Celtics 84
Boards: L.A. 43-35 (Gasol, Andrew Bynum 10)
Game 4 Celtics 96, Lakers 89
Boards: Boston 41-34 (Kendrick Perkins, 7)
Game 5 Celtics 92, Lakers 86
Boards: Boston 35-34 (Garnett, 10)
Game 6 Lakers 89, Celtics 67
Boards: L.A. 52-39 (Gasol, 13)
Game 7 Lakers 83, Celtics 79
Boards: L.A. 53-40 (Gasol, 18)

Ditto in Boston’s 2010-11 regular season win two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

Jan. 30, 2011: Celtics 109, Lakers 96
Rebounds: 43-30 Boston (Kevin Garnett, 13)

But in the four regular season meetings prior to this season, dating back to the Christmas Day game at STAPLES Center in 2008, the team with the most rebounds actually lost the game.

Feb. 18, 2010: Celtics 87, Lakers 86
Boards: Lakers 50-43 (Lamar Odom, 14)
Jan. 31, 2010: Lakers 90, Celtics 89
Boards: Celtics 39-36 (Perkins, 10)
Feb. 5, 2009: Lakers 110, Celtics 109
Boards: Boston 47-42 (Perkins, 9)
Dec. 25, 2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83
Boards: Boston 40-35 (Paul Pierce, 10)

If you look more closely, the two results last season were more about Kobe Bryant, who missed the second game as the Lakers failed to execute down the stretch, and hit the game winner on Jan. 31 at the buzzer to save his team after Boston had played better throughout the evening.

In the previous year, the Lakers were the team with more general hunger, having just lost to Boston in the 2008 Finals, and were outrebounded in part due to the absence of injured Andrew Bynum in the road contest.

Ultimately, rebounding is a combination of effort (which team has a greater sense of urgency is often key), sheer size (the Celtics are about the only team who can match L.A.) and luck (as Kobe Bryant said, sometimes it’s just where the ball bounces off the rim). Furthermore, it reflects which team shoots the ball better, as there are more opportunities to collect boards for the better-shooting squad, as their opponent will have had more shots clang off the rim.

A betting man would say that whichever team rebounds better in Boston for the final 2010-11 regular season meeting will win the game, but as past regular season matchups have shown, it certainly won’t be a guarantee.

Lakers Practice Through Distractions

Following Wednesday’s practice in Boston, the Lakers didn’t talk much about the Boston Celtics.

But that’s only because many of the questions from reporters centered around a trade rumor involving Andrew Bynum, which didn’t mean much to Phil Jackson.

“I haven’t given any second thoughts, I haven’t even entertained it,” said L.A.’s Coach. “My first thought is, why are these (media) people interrupting my life with these rumors?”

Jackson was being at least somewhat facetious, as he followed that remark by explaining that the Lakers are very much used to dealing with trade rumors, even as he acknowledged that it’s “still something that we have to consider all the time to make sure (the players are) focused.”

The 11-time coaching champ was then asked if he were happy with his team as it currently stands.

“That’s what I told them,” he answered. “I still think when they’re playing their best they are the best team in the league.”

As for Bynum himself?

“I just keep playing,” said the 23-year-old center. “That’s all I can do. I can’t allow myself to focus on things that I can’t do anything about. All I can do is come in and play basketball for the team … (trade rumors have) happened before. You just have to keep playing basketball.”

The rumor that happened before came last season, involving current Heat forward Chris Bosh, then with the Raptors. Bynum said the same things at that time, then went on to help L.A. win its second straight title.

It’s no secret that the combination of Bynum and fellow seven-footer Pau Gasol give the Lakers an edge against nearly every team in the NBA, particularly when 6-10 Lamar Odom comes off the bench.

“That’s our biggest strength, our size,” said Kobe Bryant.

Odom, meanwhile, is always around to make sure L.A.’s biggest player is feeling all right, as referenced in our feature story on Odom from early January in which Bynum references Odom’s consistent support.

“That’s my guy,” said Odom. “I haven’t heard anything about (a trade rumor), but as I do now, I’ll definitely make sure ‘Drew’s all right, that he stays in good spirits.

“I think ‘Drew is really mature for a young dude. He understands. We all support him … he seems happy. The year is not over yet, and he knows we’re going to keep him focused and keep him into it because we need him.”

The Lakers may need Bynum more against Boston than any other team in the league. Though both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal will miss Thursday’s game with respective injuries, the Celtics have their core bigs on the ready.

“I still think they have the three main people they’re going to go with, that’s (Glen) Davis, (Kendrick) Perkins and (Kevin) Garnett,” said Jackson. “We only have three big guys that we work with, I think that’s pretty much what they want.”

Trade rumor or not, it’s those Celtics’ bigs — not to mention Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo — about whom Bynum, Odom, Bryant and the rest of the Lakers will think about as they gather at the team hotel to watch film of their Jan. 30 loss to Boston at Staples Center.

Lakers on a Defensive Trip

Heading into the Lakers’ season-long 7-game road trip featuring some of the league’s tougher places to win, Phil Jackson saw an opportunity for his team to at best regain and at least build towards the championship level of last season’s playoffs.

Through two victories over New Orleans (101-95) and Memphis (93-84), Jackson is getting what he’d hoped for, at least out of his defense. It wasn’t entirely positive, not with the allowance of 29 rather easy first quarter points to the Grizzlies and 32 third quarter points to the Hornets, yet the D was generally staunch, and at its most imposing level in crunch time.

Memphis scored only 10 fourth quarter points until two meaningless triples in the final 53 seconds with the Lakers up 91-78, while Chris Paul and Co. managed just 13 points in their fourth quarter.

It’s prudent to remember that the Lakers are still getting fully schooled in the 2010-11 defensive adjustments that have bigs Andrew Bynum and to a lesser extent Pau Gasol staying home in the paint more than in previous seasons, but the paint packing is progressing and starting to give teams like Memphis fits.

“They took away the paint where we do our most damage,” said Pau’s brother Marc Gasol, the Memphis center who made just 5-of-14 shots, three more than Zach Randolph’s 2-for-14. “I think we got a little frustrated at the end. We didn’t get what we wanted. When you don’t execute against teams like this one it’s really hard to get buckets.”

“They came and played championship defense tonight,” added Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins. “You’re not just going to pound the ball inside and beat their length. You have to attack inside, get the ball out and get it moving. You have to make shots, and we weren’t able to do that consistently.”

Jackson, when asked what the Lakers did to win the game despite missing 14 free throws, turning the ball over 14 times, shooting 43 percent from the field and getting out-rebounded 45-43, had this to say: “We played good defense. Our defense was sound, we didn’t let them get a lot of stuff inside and we controlled the tempo for most of the game.”

Especially late.

“That’s what a good team does,” Jackson continued. “They learn how to lock a team down and come out in the fourth quarter and play defense.”

The Lakers know that playing outstanding defense is mandatory if they’re to avenge Boston’s win on their floor on Jan. 30, when Rajon Rondo had nine assists towards 32 fourth quarter points for the Celtics, who shoot a league-best 49.9 percent from the field on the season.

“You have to,” said Gasol, his Lakers ranking fifth in the NBA in field goal defense at 44.2 percent. “You have to be physical, active, communicative out there in order to succeed. We have two days to watch film and understand what happened in that game, how they beat us. We’re going to have to be really physical, really solid, really aggressive in order to be successful in Boston.”

The film watching commenced on Tuesday when the team arrived in Beantown, and while some Lakers went through workouts at a nearby gym, the team would not hold an official practice until Wednesday.

Lakers 93, Grizzlies 84: Feb. 7 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening road contest against the Memphis Grizzlies, the second of a seven-game road trip, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Grizzlies: M. Conley, S. Young, R. Gay, Z. Randolph, M. Gasol

12:00 The Grizzlies are a better basketball team than they’re given credit for, possessing the talent and low post game to become a playoff team, no doubt, and at best a team that could challenge for the five spot in the West. Coming into the game, Memphis ranked ninth in the West at 27-25, but had won eight of 10 games after overcoming a tough early schedule and some missed games due to injury or suspension. And in fact, the Grizz have won 3-of-5 games against the Lakers, including 2-of-3 this season.

7:10 Memphis controlled the pace early, with Mike Conley scoring seven points a home game after he dropped 28 on the Lakers (his season high) back in late November. The Lakers were shooting only 22 percent from the field in the first four minutes of the contest, but managed to tie the game at eight with two Artest free throws and a Bynum bucket on the interior.

2:36 The Grizz began to take some control as the quarter wore on, using a 6-0 run to open a 25-16 lead when former Celtic Tony Allen hit two free throws after drawing a bump on Artest in transition. Gasol answered with a dunk at the other end, his second field goal in four attempts, with Kobe Bryant heading to the bench. In the final 1:18, however, the Lakers used triples from Artest and Shannon Brown plus 1-of-3 Gasol free throws to cut the lead to 29-26. Gasol’s free throws were courtesy of his brother, who fouled him on a late attempted three, though the elder Spaniard hardly capitalized. And oh, by the way, Snoop Dogg was in the house sitting courtside in seats delivered by Matt Barnes, in advance of his concert later that night.

7:01 It was the second unit of the Lakers, led by Odom and Brown, that took control over the first five minutes of the second, outscoring the home team 13-5 to take a three-point lead as Bryant and Gasol rested on the sideline. Meanwhile, the internet access was so spotty that I had probably sent the fewest tweets from my @LakersReporter account on the season.

3:13 Bryant was in attack-the-hole mode, which was paying off in inside points such as his driving layup after he cleared the defensive board at the other end. Bryant played 42 minutes in L.A.’s Saturday evening win in New Orleans, but thus far wasn’t showing any heavy legs.

0:00 It was a far better defensive quarter for the Lakers; their activity saw the Grizz FG percentage fall from nearly 60 percent down to 40, due to only 5-of-21 makes in the period. Meanwhile, Bryant and Gasol both hit the 10-point mark when Bryant’s two free throws put LAL up 50-45 at the break, an eight-point turnaround from the first quarter.

5:10 The Lakers looked great at the onset of the quarter, utilizing excellent ball movement to get open threes for Fisher and Artest on back-to-back possessions that opened a 12-point lead, but the Grizz battled back to cut that lead in half into a Phil Jackson time out. Clearing defensive rebounds was a problem, Memphis having already grabbed eight, though L.A. had collected nine of their own at the other basket.

2:12 Make that 12 offensive boards, as Odom and Gasol collected three between them before Odom ultimately drew a foul, and hit 1-of-2 free throws that showed LAL to have already missed 9-of-21 from the stripe, with Odom, Gasol and Bynum each missing three as the Lakers clung to a 4-point lead.

0:09.5 A strange final few minutes included an inadvertent Marc Gasol hand bloodying Ron Artest’s nose (Artest wasn’t happy, but calmed down after a time out and a Spanish apology), a technical foul on Rudy Gay, and yet another free throw miss from the Lakers, who’d made only 14-of-26 (54%), leaving 12 free points on the table. As a result, Memphis trailed by only five at 73-68 into the final quarter.

6:17 After committing four turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth to allow Memphis back within three, Odom nailed a triple to make it 81-76. The Lakers may not have made any free throws, but were making up for it from distance.

4:43 Then came yet another triple, this time on a broken play in which Bryant thought he was fouled but Artest collected the ball unguarded on the wing, his third bomb of the night. Rudy Gay appeared to have injured himself on the play, the wheels beginning to come off the Grizzlies wagon, as Odom’s and-1 made it 87-76. In case you want some more missed free throws, Artest obliged by failing to convert either one off Fisher’s steal … so Fisher just stole the ball again on the next play.

2:19 Gasol’s jumper against his former team all but sealed it, opening a 91-78 lead with the Lakers holding Memphis to only 10 points in the fourth up to that point. Gasol had 17 points with nine boards, while Bryant would reach 19 points with seven boards and six dimes to lead the way to a second straight road win. Your final: 93-84 Lakers.

2 More points for Lamar Odom (15) than the entire Grizzlies bench (13). Odom outplayed Grizz star Zach Randolph (eight points, 12 boards) with his 15 and 11 boards on the evening in 30 minutes.

5 More games to play on L.A.’s seven-game trip, the team’s road record improving to 17-8 on the season, trailing only the Spurs and Mavericks in win percentage.

10 Fourth quarter points for the Grizzlies until two late Sam Young threes in the final minute, the Lakers up by double digits.

14 Missed free throws for the Lakers, including four from Ron Artest and Pau Gasol, and three from Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Kobe Bryant bucked the trend at 7-for-7.

61.5 Lakers shooting percentage from three at 8-for-13 early in the fourth quarter, until three late misses dropped the percentage down a bit.

For Games Played, Kobe = Jordan at 1,072

While clicking through some hoops articles before the Lakers tipped off in Memphis on Monday night, I noticed the following stat from a post by Joe Dorish on the players who’ve played the most games in NBA history:

Right now, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan have played the exact same number of NBA games: 1,072.

Bryant has actually already played more playoff games, 198-179, but the regular season number seemed worthy of its own post.

Odom on All-Star Omission

After Sunday’s practice in Memphis, Lamar Odom chatted with reporters about topics ranging from: matching up with the Grizzlies; Zach Randolph and the advantages of being a lefty; why he loves watching college basketball; old Air Jordan, Bo Jackson and Andre Agassi sneakers; and why he wasn’t surprised to be left off the All-Star team.

Most was typical Odom.

He is, after all, among the league’s best and most accessible interviews, so it was no surprise that he spent nearly 15 minutes discussing this, that and the other thing with reporters while six of his teammates* played a heated game of 3-on-3 as the coaching staff looked on. And while sneakers, hoops and scouting reports are frequent topics, he hasn’t been accustomed to the feeling of being an All-Star snub, even if it wasn’t a surprise.
*Luke Walton, Steve Blake and Joe Smith beat Shannon Brown, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.

“I didn’t expect it,” Odom said, though he does feel that his play warranted a slot. “When you think about the way it goes … Love and Griffin got the nod, and they should have. They played long minutes, and they have the stats for it. They deserved it.”

Odom didn’t want to compare himself with Griffin or Love, both of whom are putting up their numbers on teams with 16 (the Clippers) and 24 (the Timberwolves) fewer victories than the Lakers’ 35, but he did acknowledge if not fully embrace that things may have been different were there not two other All-Stars on his team. And if you take Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol off the team, Odom doesn’t have two championship rings. In other words, it’s all good in his world.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “It’s something that you’d like to do, but if you don’t, you move on and focus on winning a championship.”

Lakers Like the Steelers in Super Bowl

A few hours before the Super Bowl started, the Lakers were finishing up a practice session in Memphis, offering some knowledge on the Grizzlies before revealing whether they were casting respective lots with the Packers or Steelers.

In the past two seasons, as it were, the Grizzlies have earned the respect of L.A.’s players and coaches, particularly after consecutive home and away wins over the Lakers this season. First was a narrow 98-96 victory in Memphis back on Nov. 30, and more recently a 104-85 victory at Staples Center on Jan. 2 that was a game of redemption for the Grizz, particularly after the Lakers blew them out 124-105 in the fourth game of the season on Nov. 2.

Monday night’s game will be the fourth and final contest between the two teams, and at least drawing even in a season series is always a focus of Phil Jackson’s, no matter who the NBA opponent. After some further discussion about the Grizzlies, Jackson revealed that he doesn’t actually have a pick.

“I don’t have a pick,” he said. “I’m hoping for the Packers, but I don’t have a pick.”

His players, on the other hand, were another story.

Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Steve Blake and Joe Smith all said they thought the Steelers would either win straight out or cover the +2.5 spread, before heading back to the team hotel to watch the Super Bowl as a group in a banquet room.

Lakers 101, Hornets 95: Feb. 5 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday evening road contest against the New Orleans Hornets, the first of a seven-game road trip, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: C. Paul, M. Belinelli, Q. Pondexter*, D. West, A. Gray**
*Pondexter was starting for the injured Trevor Ariza (ankle), and Gray for Emeka Okafor (oblique). Backup center Jason Smith was also out due to sickness.

8:34 Hornets Coach Monty Williams opted to use Marco Belinelli, not Trevor Ariza, to guard Kobe Bryant in the past two Lakers wins this season, but tonight used rookie Quincey Pondexter in the early goings. The result was six points in the first few minutes, two on jumpers plus two free throws, to give the Lakers a 10-4 edge.

4:07 It was all working on the offensive end for the Lakers, who took advantage of their mismatches while watching Gasol and Bynum go a collective 6-of-9 from the field for six points apiece, which along with Bryant’s eight had produced a 20-12 early lead. The only problem for the Lakers seemed to be deciding which mismatch to exploit. Meanwhile, the Hornets were hitting a few jump shots, but had no low post scoring threat to counter those of the Lakers.

0:00 A businesslike first quarter ended with the Lakers up 27-19, behind efficient offense (55 percent shooting) and steady defense. Gasol had 10 points and three assists, while Bryant and Bynum combined for 14 more points.

9:30 When asked before the game what he wants most out of Bynum, Phil Jackson stuck with his usual answer of defense and rebounding, so it must have pleased P-Jax to see Bynum bring down three boards in the first two minutes of the second to reach five in the game. That said, two straight defensive breakdowns brought out a different emotion in Jackson, who called time out with his team up 29-25.

2:45 Gasol had it all working on offense, reaching 18 points after a one-handed dunk courtesy of Fisher’s pretty feed. He was 8-for-10 on the evening at that point, pushing the Lakers to a 48-37 lead. Fisher then grabbed a steal and fed Bryant in transition, who pulled up for one of his momentum-seizing triples and swished one home to reach 16 points of his own.

0:00 The Lakers had really controlled the whole half, but a momentary lapse in the final two minutes allowed the Hornets a 13-5 run that trimmed a once 14-point lead down to six (56-50) at the break. Gasol and Bryant had both lived up to their all-star status, however, combining for 37 points on 14-of-20 field goals.

9:50 Derek Fisher, the holder of the league’s Iron Man title having played an NBA-best 462 consecutive games, looked to have hurt himself while banging knees with Paul and his huge knee brace. Fish, after a minute or so on the ground, got up under his own power, walked to the bench, and then returned to the floor. Apparently it takes a lot more to keep him off the floor, which hasn’t happened since April 13, 2005.

5:36 Bryant continued a good offensive night with a jumper to keep the Lakers up eight points, though the Hornets had begun to heat up from the perimeter, particularly Chris Paul.

0:00 … Change “heat up” to “catch complete fire,” as they hit 6-of-8 three-pointers in the quarter, 13-of-20 shots overall, to take a 82-81 lead. This all despite Gasol entering Black Swan mode, scoring 13 of his season-high 32 points in the period from all over the place. Credit the Hornets for making all those shots — led by Paul’s three triples and 13 points in the quarter plus his 14 total assists — but there wasn’t much the Lakers could have done, as long jumpers are what they’d prefer be taken.

8:48 Consecutive hoops from Shannon Brown and Bryant (25 points) put the Lakers back on top at 86-84, New Orleans trying to maintain the burst of energy they held throughout the third quarter. The Lakers were continuing to get good looks on offense, shooting 54 percent in the game, but the on-fire third from N.O. had them at 57.4 percent for the game. Jackson was giving Gasol a breather, but keeping Bryant, Odom and Bynum in the game to start the fourth.

5:52 After two Brown free throws, the Lakers held a 92-88 lead as Gasol and Paul checked back into the game following a time out. The Hornets had taken their first lead of the game at the start of the quarter, but would they have enough energy to avoid a season sweep on their home floor by the Lakers?

2:49 A three-pointer by Bryant and tip in from Odom off Bryant’s miss on the next possession quickly put the Lakers back up five points after N.O. had tied the game at 92. The three was created by Artest, just in the game for Brown, as Ron Ron passed up a good look inside to give Bryant enough time to set up. Then came two straight defensive plays from Fisher, who first stripped West and then drew a charge on Paul on the perimeter, plus Gasol’s block of a David Andersen three (he was 5-of-5 from the field at that point) allowing the Lakers to keep that lead with 31 seconds left and nine seconds on the shot clock.

0:00 Gasol and Bryant would add two free throws apiece to secure a 101-95 victory to start off their seven-game trip, combining for 66 points in a solid all-around effort.

34 Season-high points for Pau Gasol, who had scored 32 after three quarters on on-fire 13-of-17 field goals before adding two late free throws. Kobe Bryant wasn’t far behind with 32 points himself.

13 Points conceded by the Lakers in the fourth quarter, good enough to secure a victory and a season sweep at New Orleans.

8 Steals for the Lakers, compared with zero for the Hornets. Related: L.A. committed only four turnovers for the game.

6 Three-pointers hit by the Hornets in the third quarter, turning what looked like an easy victory for the Lakers into a slug fest by outscoring L.A. 32-25 in the period.

4 Free throws attempted by the Hornets, compared with L.A.’s 27, showing how much the Hornets relied on jump shots.

Lakers Look to Length in New Orleans

On Dec. 28 in New Orleans, the Lakers used their length to great effect in Andrew Bynum’s first start of the season, using a 33-18 margin in the second half to cruise to a 103-88 victory.

Bynum was too much to handle on the block for Hornets center Emeka Okafor, who conceded 18 points on 8-of-12 field goals to one of L.A.’s two 7-footers, while Lamar Odom came off the bench for 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Bynum and Odom added 17 more points apiece in another Lakers win a week later, with Pau Gasol adding 21 as New Orleans again struggled with L.A.’s length.

On Saturday evening in the Big Easy, the size disadvantage will be even worse for the Hornets, as Okafor will miss his third straight game with a strained left oblique, not to mention former Laker Trevor Ariza being out with a sprained right ankle. Compounding the loss of 40 percent of their starting line up, point guard Chris Paul — still arguably the league’s best, though we should include Deron Williams and now Derrick Rose in the conversation — rolled his ankle in N.O.’s last game, a 104-93 loss to the Thunder.

The injuries leave a front line combo of Jason Smith and David West to go against Bynum and Gasol. Smith, who’s listed at 7-feet but is really more of a perimeter based big who can knock down face-up jumpers, which also happens to be the strength of West’s game. So while the Hornets will be a small team, they still don’t get out and run much, as shown by their failure to score 100 points in three of their last four games, three of which were losses (at Sacramento, at Phoenix, at Oklahoma City).

New Orleans has been particularly good at home of late, however, winning six straight in New Orleans including an impressive 96-72 victory over the league-leading San Antonio Spurs. And they do it in part with defense, holding teams to an average of 92 points per game, the second fewest in the NBA. The Lakers expect to see some zone to try and slow down their bigs, while the Hornets will surely try and spread LAL out at the defensive end with the shooting range of their bigs, including backup David Andersen and his three-point shooting range.

Tipoff is at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Lakers – Spurs Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s 89-88 loss at the buzzer to the San Antonio Spurs:

0:00.3 What the game clock showed as Antonio McDyess tipped in Tim Duncan’s missed 15-footer, winning the contest for the Spurs after L.A. had battled back to take the lead on two Pau Gasol free throws with 22.7 seconds left. Manu Ginobili then missed a three, but McDyess grabbed that miss and fed Parker for a missed leaner. Ron Artest hit the ball out of bounds trying to clear the defensive board, setting up the final stanza. Four shots in 22.7 seconds for the Spurs, bound to have one go down.

“Too many opportunities at the end of the game,” summarized Phil Jackson. “They had four attempts and it cost us. It was a good game, defensively we played well.”

7 Point lead built by the Lakers late in the second quarter before a series of poor plays at both ends allowed the Spurs to tie the game at the half. That seemed to take some wind out of L.A.’s sails that it didn’t recover until the final minutes.

7.5 Games between the two teams in the Western Conference standings, after it appeared to be 5.5 had the Lakers lasted another 0.00.3 seconds.

10 Assists for Kobe Bryant, in facilitator mode for much of the game as the Spurs’ D shifted his way. He was one rebound away from a triple double, grabbing nine boards to go with the assists and his 16 points, though he struggled from the field while making just 5-of-18 field goals.

14.3 Percent from three-point range for the Lakers, who made only two of 14 shots from distance, though Odom did get the biggest one to fall with one minute left to cut San Antonio’s lead to one.

29 Minutes played by Andrew Bynum after he missed a game due to a bone bruise in his left knee. He appeared to be moving just fine, going for 10 points with 10 rebounds, not to mention a career-high six assists and three blocks. “He said he was fine,” said Phil Jackson of Bynum’s health.

32 Points in the paint for the Spurs, who L.A. forced into a lot of perimeter jumpers. San Antonio did hit six threes, and made 13-of-17 free throws.