The Lakers have given their audience quite a show leading into their Tuesday night match up against the division leading San Antonio Spurs. Who would have ever thought L.A. would establish a dominance in the West with five games remaining in the season, all while Kobe Bryant was in a suit and tie on the bench?
With Kobe Bryant being a possible bench warmer until the end of the regular season, the Lakers have rediscovered their other strengths and had multiple players step up their rolls on the court. One of the most inspirational things everyone is taking note of, however, is the work of none other than Kobe, who has stepped up as a “coach”, with Ramon Sessions stating his impact on the sidelines as “influential to the team.” The rest of the roster continues to break out on the court, as well, winning four of their last five, including a four point OT victory over the Mavericks on Sunday.
When the Lakers last faced the Spurs, the combination of Andrew Bynum’s massive 30 rebounds and Metta World Peace being an offensive leader helped their team coast to a 14 point victory. The spectacular play from Matt Barnes off of the bench continues to also be a deciding factor in all of the Lakers recent games, and his impact will be necessary for L.A. to improve to a five game winning streak. The fact that the Clippers are a single game behind the Lakers in the standings, as well, should instigate the desire needed for another Lakers victory.
The Lakers got the first points on the board with a Pau Gasol feed to Bynum for an easy two points. After a couple of turnovers and a Tony Parker bucket, Metta World Peace proved he was ready to play, stealing the ball from Parker around half court and taking it down for a layup. San Antonio didn’t look as if they had any sort of momentum going for them in the opening for minutes, with Parker scoring all of their first six points while Sessions, Gasol, World Peace and Bynum had all put their share of baskets down.
With both teams looking for pick and rolls, Duncan and Parker both found themselves pulling up from around 16 feet out, and draining each opportunity. Tony Parker began killing the Lakers in transition as the four minute mark passed, and suddenly World Peace’s excellent start became overshadowed by the one-man-show Parker had been putting on the whole first quarter. Andrew Bynum started to control all of the Lakers offense and defense in both painted areas, easily slamming home dunks over two defenders while handling easy defensive rebounds on the other end.
San Antonio had no answer for any of Bynum’s tactics in the first quarter, allowing him to score six of his nine field goal attempts to help the Lakers finish the first 12 minutes with a one point lead over the Spurs, 28-27.
Tiago Splitter put away a beautiful ally-oop from the hands of Manu Ginobili to start off the second quarter for the Spurs, but the Lakers’ spark off the bench Matt Barnes answered with a three-pointer to retake the lead. Gary Neal came out of nowhere for San Antonio, hitting six consecutive points and making the second quarter look very one sided.
As soon as Kobe Bryant made his way from the locker room to take a seat on the bench, the Lakers game play changed. Suddenly Pau Gasol and Steve Blake worked together to hit the equal six points, putting the Lakers on a 6-0 run and forcing the Spurs to call a time out. Sessions started to show off his speed against some of the seasoned Spurs, quickly dribbling around a high pick and roll situation to put in a floating layup. Yet again, however, Tony Parker worked his magic to get more baskets against L.A., including forcing some major turnovers with a little under five minutes remaining. Just as quickly as the Lakers were able to turn the game around with a 6-0 run, Parker turned it right back around for San Antonio, capitalizing on his quick transition abilities to blow the game wide open.
The Spurs put down 18 unanswered points, and alongside the Lakers five consecutive turnovers proved that halftime couldn’t come any sooner. Devin Ebanks finally broke the drought with a three pointer, but Tony Parker continued to destroy the Lakers offensively, helping the Spurs close out the half on a 24-6 run. The Lakers had a lot of improvements to make in the second half, as they finished off the first trailing 47-63.
Tony Parker started off the half continuing to completely dominate Ramon Sessions, and a three point play by Tim Duncan to put the Spurs up 23 was quite possibly the Lakers worst nightmare to open up the second half. Ramon Sessions hit a 22-foot jump shot, and Pau Gasol following up with back to back baskets gave a little hope that L.A. could get back into this game. Andrew Bynum continued to be impossible to find due to the Spurs tough defense, and unwanted outside shots were the repercussions.
San Antonio’s offense picked apart any attempt the Lakers put out on defense, with even Ginobili and Duncan taking turns at spectacular baskets, forcing Staples Center to become quieter and quieter as time ticked on. Andrew Bynum was inactive under the basket on both sides, with the 30 rebound game a week before seeming like a complete thing of the past.
As soon as Josh McRoberts and Matt Barnes worked up a couple good plays to finally get the crowd on their feet, Tony Parker automatically made his presence known once again. Parker had a huge 27 total points entering the fourth quarter, and he was leading the Spurs to an easy victory, finishing the third quarter on top 91-70.
Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace came out in the final quarter proving that the game was nowhere close to being over, knocking down seven points before the Spurs could answer with two points from Gary Neal. Things started getting testy between both Steve Blake and Manu Ginobili, with Blake committing back to back fouls, looking as if he should have picked up a flagrant one. World Peace picked up his fifth foul of the game, and reasoned with Coach Brown that his offense was needed in this closing quarter, so managed to stay on the floor.
The Lakers were getting themselves back into the game with under eight minutes remaining, forcing the Spurs to reintroduce Tim Duncan into the game to try to keep hold of the lead. The easily achieved this as Duncan’s basket to reach 15 points but the Spurs ahead 20, looking as if the Lakers had no chance of impressing their home fans with an impressive comeback. The only positive thing Lakers fans had to look forward to was the likely return of Kobe Bryant in their next match up, hopefully re-sparking some energy and sense of urgency within the rest of the roster so another blowout loss cannot occur again.
L.A. continued to give away numerous turnovers, putting the ball right back into the Spurs hands to punish the Lakers again and again. By the time the game mercifully ended the Lakers were embarrassed by San Antonio, 112-91.