Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against San Antonio, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Blake, Meeks, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Spurs: T. Parker, D. Green, K. Leonard, T. Duncan, T. Splitter
12:00 One almost has to pinch him or herself when looking at the Lakers warming up and not seeing No. 24 on the floor, Kobe Bryant having torn his Achilles with 3:08 left in the team’s Friday night victory over Golden State. This game was to be about the rest of the players trying to collectively pick up his slack, no one more than Dwight Howard, surely determined to show that he can lead the Lakers.
7:07 It was a good start for Dwight. L.A. doubled up the Spurs early when Steve Blake’s jumper went down, the 12-6 scoreline a product of Howard’s work inside (six points, two dunks) and terrific collective defense.
0:00 The Spurs, however, answered that spurt with an 8-0 run to take a momentary lead, using two Lakers turnovers and three missed three-pointers to score in transition. L.A.’s D was solid in the half court, but they were hurting themselves with the long misses and unnecessary giveaways, as have been issues throughout the season. At quarter’s end, the Spurs held a narrow 23-22 lead, decent for the Lakers since they turned it over six times and shot only 38 percent.
8:22 L.A. opened the game missing its first seven threes, so a Steve Blake make from the corner was a welcome sight for the home team. He followed with a free throw line jumper, his fourth make in five attempts, for nine points. The triple cut what had been a six-point to a point, forcing San Antonio’s time out.
3:28 Who needs Kobe when Steve Blake’s draining triples from everywhere (100 percent facetious, of course). The Maryland product drained his fourth of the quarter, reaching 18 points while putting the Lakers up 40-35 despite 38 percent shooting as a team. He was 6 of 7, the counter example.
0:00 A tip in from Howard seemed to close the half on a good note for L.A., allowing a 43-40 lead, but Gary Neal beat the buzzer with a three from the wing to tie things up heading into halftime. The Lakers showed great effort on D throughout, holding the Spurs to just 35 percent shooting, but L.A. wasn’t much better (35.6 percent) … thus the tie.
11:11 Consecutive power moves from Howard had L.A. off to a good start in the second half, his two makes giving him 16 points with his 10 boards, and his team a quick four-point lead.
0:00 The Lakers led by as many as six in the quarter, but found themselves tied at 61 heading into the fourth quarter, as the Spurs yucked up the game by intentionally fouling Howard off the ball five times in the final three minutes. Howard made four of the 10, and the Spurs made up only two points from when they started the process, forcing us to watch.
6:01 Well, the Lakers picked a good time to get hot from three. Antawn Jamison drained three straight triples to start the quarter, and Jodie Meeks followed with two more, helping the Lakers open up a nine-point lead halfway through the period. Before the fourth, Steve Blake had all four of the teams triples in 18 attempts.
1:18 Clutch free throws first from Howard (who was only 6 for 15 before hitting two) and Blake kept the Lakers up in the final minutes, and the defensive stops continued to come, San Antonio ending up shooting just 37.1 percent for the game. L.A. didn’t need a field goal in the final few minutes, adding one more Blake free throw that gave him 23 points with five boards, in a 91-86 win. Howard had 26 points and 17 boards plus three blocks and two steals, while Gasol made up for a uncharacteristically poor effort on offense (3 of 17 shooting) with 16 boards and three blocks of his own.
With the victory, the Lakers can get into the playoffs with either a win on Wednesday against Houston, or a Utah loss at Minnesota on Monday or Memphis on Wednesday. We will you on Wednesday, folks.