The Lakers lost, the San Antonio Spurs won, and nobody should be surprised. The Lakers played with heart in their second game of this road trip but still were kept at a respectable distance from the lead through the majority of the game. The Spurs took advantage of the putrid Lakers defense as they hit uncontested three-pointer after uncontested three-pointer and never allowed the Lakers to stake claim in the lead. As soon as the Lakers would begin chipping into the lead there would be another back-breaking, momentum shifting, play that set the Lakers back in neutral.
Then, the frantic end. Every Lakers game needs a frantic end nowadays, it's just the way it works. We know the script here, the Lakers turn a 10 point deficit throughout the game into 5. Maybe 4 even if things go exceptionally well. But something funny happened this time around, they brought it within 3 with a minute left as San Antonio began to meltdown in front of our eyes. Up the roller coaster of hope we went. So close we could pull the clouds right out of the sky itself.
The Spurs, with under a minute left, used their next possession wisely and ran a play to get Manu Ginobli open in the corner (and really, getting open in the corner against the Lakers defense doesn't take a great deal of trickery) and he drained it. The rushing descent from the top of the roller coaster tracks had only begun. The Lakers bring the ball up court, with just under 40 seconds left... and Earl Clark responds with a three of his own.
*Pardon this interruption while we look at Earl Clark's career numbers*
Before going into this game, on his career, Earl Clark was 2-10 from deep. He's been in the league since 2009.
*We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming*
The Spurs, inexplicably, turn the ball over in their next trip down and the Lakers are left with 10 seconds to force an overtime in this game. Down three, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Mike D'Antoni to figure out the best way to get an open shot to finish the game. The offensive gurus who are to lead this Lakers team to the promised lands.
And there it was, in all of it's glory. Steve Nash takes the inbounds pass and immediately dumps it to Kobe Bryant at the corner of the arc. No screens. No off-ball action. Just an isolation against one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, Kawhi Leonard. As expected, Kobe takes the shot against all conventional wisdom and it misses. The ball is tipped out and sails into the hands of Earl Clark who shoots a prayer into the air from well beyond the three-point line.
But nobodies there to answer.
The shot misses as well, but at the very least he took a crack at it with time expiring and two defenders to split. The Spurs hung onto a win they nearly let slip out of their hands, and the Lakers were sent packing their bags as they head back to Los Angeles to regroup till their Friday meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That's the ball game.
Yes, the Lakers lost, making it 5 losses in a row and a continuance of their winless 2013. Still, without their top three bigs in Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard they played with energy. There were still countless defensive issues. There was still plenty of poor offensive possessions and decisions made. But they played with effort, and turned it into a competitive game. Hats off to Earl Clark who made the most of the opportunity in front of him. He finished the night with 22 points (9-12), 13 rebounds, and 3 assists. With the Lakers void in having a small forward to play off the bench, Clark showed promise that he could potentially fill that void. Devin Ebanks is still not cracking the rotation even with the phone book worth of injuries the Lakers are facing and Clark can play both the small and power forward.
The Spurs were led by Tony Parker who was able to antagonize the Lakers defense at his will on his way to 24 points (10-14), 6 assists, and 3 rebounds. Manu Ginobli provided the Spurs secondary punch with 19 points off the bench, none more crucial than the big three he hit down the stretch. Kobe Bryant dropped in 27 points on 10-24 shooting (3-8 from deep), 4 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Unfortunately, I have to type those damning words yet again here. Too little, too late. Final score; 108-105. Spurs win.
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