With their Christmas Day collapse well in the rearview mirror, the Los Angeles Lakers traveled to San Antonio on Tuesday night to take on the Spurs, who currently boast the best record in basketball. Having only beat one team with a winning record and losers of two consecutive games, the Lakers are suffering from an apparent case of complacency. With only three games left before 2011, and two of them against playoff-bound teams, the Lakers are looking to use their remaining contests as a momentum builder heading into the new year.
Behind eight points on four of five shooting from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers jumped out to an early 10-3 lead in just under three minutes of play. However, Tony Parker went on to score eight points of his own, and the Spurs took control of the scoreboard for the rest of the quarter. The score remained close for the rest of the period, but back-to-back three-pointers by the Spurs gave them a 27-18 after the first 12 minutes of play.
While the Spurs had the momentum of an 8-2 run entering the second quarter, the Lakers’ Killer B’s came out hot and went on an 8-0 run, cutting the Spurs lead to one. Despite nine consecutive misses by Bryant, the Lakers were able to regain the lead with 4:11 remaining in the first half off of a 3-pointer by Artest.
Just before Artest’s trey, Kobe and and San Antonio’s George Hill each picked up technical fouls after exchanging words with each other under the basket. The triple gave the Lakers a 41-40 lead, and they held on for the final moments, taking a 44-42 lead heading into the break.
To open the second half, DeJuan Blair scored seven points as the Spurs went on a 17-6 run to give themselves a nine-point cushion over the defending world champs just under seven minutes into the period. After missing 13 consecutive shots in a row, Kobe ended his scoring drought by hitting a long three-pointer to cut the Spurs lead to six.
A layup by Tony Parker gave the Spurs an 11 point lead, their largest of the night, with 3:15 remaining. Despite slowly losing their handle on the game, Lakers refused to give up, as they went on a mini 7-4 run, pulling them within six points yet again. However, reflective of the final moments of the first period, the Spurs ended the quarter with a devastating 3-pointer; this time it came from the hands of Manu Ginobili with 31 seconds remaining, giving the Spurs a 71-62 lead heading into the fourth and final period.
After a barrage of misses plagued both teams over the first two minutes of the quarter, the Spurs broke the offensive struggle with six consecutive points, giving them a 14 point lead with 9:19 to play. Refusing to lie down and take the loss, Kobe went on an offensive tear, knocking down an 18-foot jumper, followed by back-to-back buckets from beyond on the arc.
Despite Kobe’s efforts, the energy of Blair and Hill on both sides of the ball extended the Spurs lead to 17 with just over four minutes to play. A free throw by Ginobili with 3:18 to play gave the Spurs a 19 point lead, and their largest of the contest. The Spurs did not look back, and closed out the Lakers 97-82, improving their league-best record to 27-4.
In the winning effort, the Spurs were led by Blair, who finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Hill came off the bench to provide the Spurs with 10 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
The Lakers, who were handed their 10th loss of the season, were led by Kobe Bryant, who finished with 21 points, five rebounds and five turnovers.
Playing in just his seventh game of the season, Andrew Bynum finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in just under 20 minutes of play.
The Lakers, now 21-10, will take on New Orleans tomorrow night in the second game of a back-to-back set.