The Los Angeles Lakers headed to San Antonio tonight to play the Spurs in the battle for the second seed in the Western Conference. The Lakers entered the night 5.5 games behind the Spurs in the standings and they needed this win to gain some ground.
However, Kobe Bryant sat out another game due to a shin injury, and to make matters worse, the Spurs’ big three suited up for the match-up. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker did not play in the Spurs’ game versus the Jazz, but the three players were well rested for their marquee game against the Lakers.
The Lakers and Spurs had a slow start to the game and neither team was able to score on their first four attempts. The offenses were struggling and the Lakers were getting open looks, but had trouble putting the ball in the hole. The Spurs were riding the same boat and were missing shots they usually made. At the 9:27 mark of the first quarter, the Lakers had a 3-2 lead.
However, as the quarter progressed both teams got it going from the offensive end. They found a groove and were beginning to play much better basketball. Still, the Spurs got a feel for the game earlier and were using their speed to hurt the Lakers. Tony Parker out-ran the Lakers’ defenders and either found himself an easy bucket or dished it out to this teammate on the perimeter. The team went on an 8-2 run and took a 10-7 lead with 6:50 to play in the quarter.
The Spurs started to create some separation from the Lakers with their three-point shooting and the Lakers were doing a poor job of closing out on the shooters. Matt Bonner hit two consecutive three-point shots for the Spurs and momentum started to shift the Spurs’ way. However, the Lakers started to feed the ball to their big men and tied the score at 18 with 3:00 left in the quarter.
After 12 minutes of play, the Lakers held a 24-21 lead and closed out the quarter very well. Once the team began to get the big men more involved, the offense flowed better and they found more success. Gasol scored seven points in the opening period while Bynum had six points and 11 rebounds.
The Lakers continued their hot shooting in the second quarter and were dissecting the Spurs’ defense. The Lakers were attacking the basket and were getting most of their points in the paint. Gasol was the center-piece of the offense at the time, and was doing a great job scoring and dishing the ball. With 9:00 left in the half, the Lakers were up 38-35.
The Spurs gained a little momentum after a five-point play by Patty Mills who nailed a three and took advantage of the Lakers’ laziness and scored after a steal. However, the Lakers did not let that affect them and were quick to answer back to the diminutive run. The Lakers maintained a cushion from the Spurs and did their best to keep it a two-possession game. With 6:18 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers were up 37-31.
The Lakers continued with their stellar play and were controlling both ends of the court. Los Angeles committed only three turnovers and made seven three-point field goals in the game. The Spurs could not do anything to put a stop to the onslaught and seeing the Lakers succeed like this against a stellar Spurs team without Kobe was delighting. With 3:30 left in the half, the Lakers held a 44-33 lead.
The Spurs closed out the first half strong and trailed only 48-43 heading back to the locker-room. Gasol and Matt Barnes led the way for the Lakers with 11 each, followed by Bynum with nine. The big number for the Lakers was rebounds. In fact, Bynum had out-rebounded the Spurs single-handedly in the first half, 19-18.
The Lakers maintained their lead over the Spurs in the opening minutes of the quarter and they did that by dominating the glass. Andrew Bynum asserted his presence in the quarter and was controlling the paint on both ends of the court. With 9:00 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers were up 54-45.
The Spurs were having trouble dealing with the Lakers’ big men and Los Angeles’ front-court was getting easy looks near the basket. Even World Peace was getting into the action and his stellar defense was resulting in easy looks for him on the other end of the court. Bynum was a monster on the court for the Lakers and his 16 points and 21 rebounds helped the team take a 60-49 lead with 6:37 left to play in the period.
Metta World Peace then took over the scoring load for the Lakers and was hitting shots from everywhere on the court. The Spurs could not do anything about his offensive attack and were beginning to fear him when the ball was in his hands. World Peace scored 20 points for the Lakers and helped them to a 71-51 advantage at the 3:40 mark of the third. Momentum had shifted the Lakers’ way completely and what made the difference was the stellar play of the role players.
The Lakers slightly let the foot off the gas pedal in the final minutes of the quarter and the Spurs gained a little confidence heading to the final period. After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers were leading the Spurs, 75-59, behind 20 points by World Peace and 25 rebounds by Bynum.
The Lakers did not let up on the offensive end and World Peace was having his night against the Spurs. World Peace was performing well on both ends of the court and his biggest contribution came on the offensive end. He was nailing down shots from every angle and his explosion was frankly a surprise. With 9:23 left to play in the game, the Lakers were up 84-61.
The Spurs tried to put a dent into the Lakers’ lead but every time the Spurs got something going, the Lakers answered back. San Antonio had its three stars on the bench during this stretch, and their younger players could not do any magic on the court. World Peace put a halt to any Spurs run and it was clear that Los Angeles was going to cruise to a victory. At the 5:54 mark of the fourth quarter, the Lakers were up 89-72
The game was all but decided before the fourth quarter even began, but Mike Brown still had Bynum and Gasol in the game in the latter half of the period. The Spurs did make a run towards the end of the game, but they never pressured the Lakers. As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers walked off the court with a 98-84.
Gasol finished the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Metta World Peace concluded the great night with 26 points and Bynum tallied in 16 points with 30 rebounds rebounds.
The Lakers will be back in action on Friday when they host the Denver Nuggets at 7:30 p.m. PST.