The Spurs returned to the Staples Center on Friday where they beat the Clippers on Monday, and despite playing somewhat lackadaisically at times, they were easily able to dispatch a struggling Lakers team whose best player, Kobe Bryant, had a horrible shooting night and made only one of his 14 attempts. The Spurs improved their record to 5-3, good enough for 7th place in the Western Conference, while the Lakers dropped to a West worst 1-8.
Most viewers missed the start of the game, as ESPN was televising a college basketball game between Louisville and Minnesota. The game, which was a contest between Rick Pitino and his son Richard, wasn't close, but due to fouling and poor planning by ESPN, ran well past the time the Spurs game was scheduled to start.
The Spurs game began a little ragged for both teams. Early on, Kobe Bryant blocked a Kawhi Leonard shot and the Lakers couldn't take advantage, but the Spurs started to hit some three-point shots and had a 10 point lead just before the end of the quarter. Kobe Bryant kept things close at the end of the quarter by suckering Danny Green into a cheap foul on a half-court heave just before the end of the quarter and sinking all three free throws which cut the Spurs' lead to just seven points at the end of the first quarter, 29-22.
The second quarter opened with a sideline interview from an annoyed Coach Popovich, who said that his team "made shots" and would have to "play well" in order to win the game. After those four words, the second quarter began in earnest with the Spurs looking sharper and the Lakers looking more ragged than they had in the first. Carlos Boozer played well and used his strength and size to grab rebounds and get inside. He also hit some jumpers in the game asn was the best offensive player for the Lakers in the game. The Lakers did a really good job of rebounding, keeping the Spurs from second chances and that kept the game from getting even more out of hand.The highlight of the first half was Kawhi Leonard taking the ball away from Jeremy Lin on two consecutive possessions which led to breakaways, although he got fouled on the second one before he could dunk the ball.
Tim Duncan scored a basket with 9:06 left in the second quarter that brought him to 25,001 points scored in his career. There was no special on-court acknowledgement of the event, but Gregg Popovich did let Duncan bring the ball up the court to start the offense a few possessions later. At halftime, the Spurs led 47-35, but the lead felt much more substantial than that. Kobe Bryant only took four shots in the first half, and missed all of them. The second quarter ended with Wesley Johnson streaking up the court on a fast break, slipping, and then losing the ball before he could put up a shot, which is pretty much indicative of how things are going for the Lakers this year.
The third quarter saw the Spurs' execution suffer and they played one of their worst quarters of the season, but the Lakers played almost as badly, and the margin between the teams was only slightly narrowed. Kobe Bryant became more involved in the Lakers offense and his poor shooting was part of the reason that the Lakers weren't able to take advantage -- he missed five shots in the quarter. The Lakers did a good job on the defensive boards, and the Spurs, even though they hit some shots, were not able to maintain the margin, which allowed the Lakers to cut the lead to seven towards the end of the quarter. Hubie Brown got so annoyed at some of the sloppy play by the Lakers in the quarter that he began to yell at the Lakers players. It seemed that he might start coaching them from the broadcast table during a few plays where they had an advantage, but they couldn't exploit it. For the Spurs, Kyle Anderson got some burn and looked decent on defense but was unable to hit a shot. The third quarter ended with the Spurs up 68-57.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Silver and Black, as it usually does. They shook off the rust, began to execute and the Lakers folded. In the first minute of the quarter, Kobe finally hit a shot, but it was going to be his only basket of the night. Aron Baynes gave Duncan a rest and held his own against the Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker baffled the Lakers with ball movement. The scariest moment was when Kobe inadvertantly hit Kawhi Leonard in the face and gave him a cut over the left eye. Kawhi had to go to the locker room and get 6 stitches, but he could have returned to the game if needed. But by the time he got back, the Spurs were safely ahead so he was kept out. He only played 18 minutes in the game, so he should be well rested for the game tomorrow night in Sacramento.
The real star of the fourth quarter was Cory Joseph, who is continuing to grow in confidence and leadership for the good guys. He was able to keep Kobe in check when he drew that assignment, despite Kobe being several inches taller than him, and his drives to the basket opened up passing lanes for his teammates. The lead grew to 24 points after Ginobili assisted Jeff Ayres with a nifty pass between Jordan Hill's legs with 6:13 left. he rest of the game was garbage time and the Lakers were able to reduce the margin slightly, but the outcome was never in doubt.
The Spurs travel to Sacramento and play the Kings tomorrow night at 9:00 pm, Spurs time.
Sequence of the Night:
The whole game the Lakers had been able to keep in touch by rebounding well and keeping the Spurs from getting second chances, but with 10:37 left in the game, Manu missed a jumper and got his own shot, passed it to Boris, who missed the shot and grabbed the rebound, then passed to Tony Parker who missed a shot. Boris grabbed the rebound and passed it to Aron Baynes who made the shot. They had four attempts at the basket in one offensive possession, and it seemed like the Lakers had no fight left after that.
Vine(s) of the night:
For a Lakers-eye view of the game, be sure to visit Silver Screen and Roll.