LAL 97, SAS 121: April 20 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at San Antonio, the Lakers welcoming Kobe Bryant back after seven missed games for the rubber match with the Spurs, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Spurs: T. Parker, D. Green, K. Leonard, T. Duncan, T. Splitter

FIRST QUARTER
11:25 Well, that didn’t take long. On L.A’s first offensive possession, Bryant finished a pretty Gasol pass with a layup at the rim, plus the foul, to get L.A. off on the right foot. Player development coach Phil Handy told me that Bryant looked “100 percent” to him all week, and he’d know, because Handy played 1-on-1 games with Bryant and put Kobe through extensive workouts. He said Bryant scored on 17 of 30 possessions, despite almost constant fouls from Handy (Kobe likes to be played physically as he would be in games).

0:41.2 For the second time in about a minute, the Spurs corralled a 50-50 ball that should have been L.A.’s, and converted a field goal, maintaining the great shooting that had them at 68.2 percent by quarter’s end (15 of 22).

0:00 With that hot Spurs start, L.A. couldn’t be that upset about trailing by only seven, with Bynum’s buzzer-beating shot in the paint giving him 10 points in a 32-25 deficit. Having five free throws to S.A.’s was helpful, as well.

SECOND QUARTER
10:00 It was a great start to the second quarter for the Lakers, who capped a 9-0 run with Steve Blake’s open three on the wing, tying things up at 32. With Bryant’s return, Mike Brown can again play World Peace and Barnes with the second unit, which has been especially effective on defense with the length/tenacity of those two wings.

5:49 A pretty driving layup from Parker, so great in the game at L.A. (14 of 20 FG’s for 29 points with 13 assists) tied the game at 39, L.A.’s second group continuing to look good as Bryant rested on the bench. Kobe returned out of a time out, having taken four first quarter shots towards five points with a rebound. His presence helped Bynum have more room, though, as San Antonio was hesitant to leave Kobe for double teams.

1:43 The Spurs reeled off a 10-0 run, including two more triples (5 of 6 in the game) to open an 8-point lead, reclaiming the momentum L.A.’s second unit had created, as Bryant had yet to find a rhythm (1 of 5 after making his first at the rim) and Sessions was really struggling with just two points and no assists. However, a World Peace three and two Gasol free throws cut the margin to five (56-51) at the half, the Lakers still hanging tough.

THIRD QUARTER
8:00 Perhaps the biggest difference between L.A.’s big win at San Antonio last week and the Tuesday loss/tonight’s game has been Bynum’s lack of impact on the glass. Of course, the Spurs barely missing shots left few defensive boards to be had in the first place, but Bynum had no offensive rebounds on Tuesday and only one in this one, with the Spurs really focusing to put a body (or often two) on him.

3:58 A 14-4 Spurs run created a huge hole for a Lakers team that had battled to stay close despite continued red hot shooting for San Antonio, up to 63 percent in the game, their lead at 16.

0:00 Can’t emphasize enough how hot San Antonio continued to stay from the field. They made 13 of 17 shots before finally rimming out on a late three, scoring 35 points to L.A.’s 21 in the quarter to blow the game wide open, leading 91-73. Ginobili was the star of the quarter, scoring 10 of his 20 points, while Parker reached a 20-point, 10-assist double-double and Duncan looked like hologram 2003 Timmy, making 10 of 15 shots for 21 points and eight boards. The only upside from the third for L.A. was that Kobe found his rhythm, making five of six shots from all over the court to reach 18 points.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:00 Ginobili continued his impressive individual game with a nasty bullet pass for a Splitter layup, his seventh assist in 25 minutes plus 20 points and six boards. Certainly earned his Subway Sub of the Game from Stu Lantz on KCAL 9.

6:00 This one was well over by the midway point, allowing Brown to pull Bynum and Bryant (30 minutes), Gasol (29) and World Peace (30), with Sessions staying in as his minutes were limited by early foul trouble trying to defend Parker. The Spurs led by as many as 25, despite L.A. taking that three-point lead early in the third quarter, putting things well on ice.

2:33 With the Spurs up 21, matching their final margin in the road win at L.A. on Tuesday, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock were the final two subs to enter. McRoberts hit a three and Goudelock a floater, but San Antonio continued to hit as they had all game, finishing at 61 percent to finish off a 121-97 victory, L.A.’s biggest loss of the season. L.A. has just two games left, trying to hold onto the No. 3 seed, starting with Sunday’s home contest against Oklahoma City. See you there.