Lakers Rally Falls Short Against the Spurs
The Los Angeles Lakers cut a 20-point deficit down to six but ran out of gas and time as the San Antonio Spurs prevailed at the AT&T Center, 105-85. The Spurs started fast as they raced out to a comfortable 27-24 lead after handing the Lakers a brief 12-4 lead in the first quarter. Momentum was clearly with the home team as the Spurs shot a blistering 57.4% from the field and 7-16 for 43.8% from behind the arc while holding the Lakers to 44.2% and 2-7 for 28.6% from three-point range. Mr. Fundamental, Tim Duncan, (25 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocked shots, 2 steals) showed that he may have lost a step but not much else as he taught Andrew Bynum (23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 2 assists) a few veteran moves. Kobe Bryant (16 points on 7-10, 3 assists, 1 rebound in 32 minutes) suffered through back spasms in the first half which limited his mobility and the amount of time he spent on the floor. Kobe was often seen grimacing in pain as he stiffly tried to gut it out. He left the game for good at the end of the third quarter and did not return.
Tony Parker (22 points, 6 assists), Richard Jefferson (12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) and back-up point guard George Hill (13 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) were more than enough ammunition to stave off any thoughts of a Laker comeback. And with Manu Ginobli (9 points, 6 assists), Roger Mason (9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist) and Antonio McDyess (8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist) securing the bench play along with Hill, the Spurs were rolling to their 14th victory in the last 18 games. Lamar Odom (10 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocked shots, 2 steals) and Ron Artest (13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) were not enough to offset the red-hot Spurs. Shannon Brown (8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals) and Jordan Farmar (6 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal) were about all the offense the bench could muster. Luke Walton made a brief appearance and looked relatively good in his first outing in nearly eight weeks. He chipped in 4 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal in 6 minutes of action.
The final score does not indicate the intensity of the second half. As the Spurs waltzed to the bucket in the first half with little resistance, the Lakers turned it up defensively in the second half. And with Kobe definitely ailing from his assortment of injuries, the Lakers came back without the services of their perennial All-Star. The Lakers chipped away at the lead (which reached 22 points in the 3rd period) behind a 14-4 run to close out the period to trail by 12 heading into the 4th quarter. The Lakers used a 6-1 run to open the final stanza, cutting down the lead to 69-76 with 9:19 left to play and the Spurs quickly calling a time out. The Lakers cut another point off the lead to draw within 6 points but that was as close as they got as the Spurs surged back in control of the game with a barrage of long distance shots.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Sometimes a loss is a blessing in disguise. Although the team could have put together a better first half, the second unit’s play in the second half offered a brief but positive look at what might be in the near future. Having Luke back really showcased his value and the poise that he brings to the bench. Hopefully, he’s had enough time off to strengthen his ailing back and recover from his pinched nerve. At certain times, there was a fluidity that had been absent for the majority of the season. Ball movement was crisp, open cutters were found, and defensive intensity was up. Fatigue from playing catch-up ultimately caught the Lakers, but I was pleasantly pleased with what I saw. If healthy (Kobe, Pau, Artest, Walton) the Lakers offer up a formidable line-up from 1-12. The Texas two-step may prove to be a 0-fer (if Kobe needs to sit-out tomorrow’s contest) but what intrigues me is as this team finally gets itself back together, we had a brief glimpse into the second half of the season tonight, and it looked pretty darn good.