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Without Kobe or Bynum, Lakers Still Clobber Spurs

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Wasn't this just THE most delightful game? While Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum continue to rest and rehabilitate, their mates have found a beautiful flow. Tonight the San Antonio Spurs were no match for the shorthanded Lakers, who prevailed 101 to 89. The Laker offense was thrusting and decisive. The Laker D recovered from an iffy start to choke off everything the Spurs tried to do. It's the second straight game the Lakers have glimpsed what they can accomplish when functioning as a concerted whole.

That iffy start took the form of a 9-0 San Antonio lead and a first quarter that reified our basic fears about this matchup. Tony Parker was getting wherever he wanted to go, hitting shots himself and setting up Tim Duncan. Part of the initial problem was the failure of the Laker big men to close off the paint; a bigger part was that Derek Fisher had no hope of impeding Parker's drives. The Spurs gashed the Lakers for 1.36 points per possession in the quarter, but the San Antonio lead was only six thanks to early three-point bombs from Ron Artest, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

Much as against Portland on Friday night, Phil Jackson pushed the right buttons and pulled the right levers to get the contraption humming. Laker defenders started jumping the passing lanes. San Antonio's shot attempts started coming further from the basket. The Spurs were kept off the free-throw line and the offensive glass. Meanwhile the Lakers used their speed to beat the Spurs on the fast break and get to the rim. Sasha, Ron and Lamar consistently found seams and gaps in the San Antonio D, and when halftime rolled around the Lakers had scratched out a three-point lead.

The second half witnessed a gradual strangulation of the visiting team. It became increasingly clear that the height and athleticism of the Laker front line, even without Bynum, was too much for the Spurs to handle. Pau Gasol struggled with his shot for much of the night - they were perfectly good looks that were just dancing the wrong way off the rim - but he was superb in every other respect. He held Tim Duncan to below 50% shooting, grabbed 19 rebounds, dished out eight assets and blocked five shots. It was a performance worthy of a franchise player, as he demonstrated how his wealth of skills can dominate a game even when his shot is off.

The Laker ball movement tonight was, on the whole, exquisite. With Kobe not around, the other Lakers seem to realize that they need to commit to the Triangle on every possession to get sound scoring opportunities. Let's hope that the lesson sticks when the Mamba is back and reintegrated.

We don't yet know whether that will happen Wednesday night in Utah, or whether he'll wait until after the All-Star break. It should be apparent to everyone that he shouldn't and doesn't need to rush back. The store is being minded. The fort is being held.

The Lakers are now 40-13. They're five games up on Denver in the Western Conference and 1½ (plus a tiebreaker) behind Cleveland. As for the Spurs, they appear not to be a team we need to worry about any longer.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

S.A.

92

14

0.22

83

0.15

44

33

45

48

21

72

0.97

L.A.

92

11

0.30

73

0.16

44

43

47

51

28

79

1.10

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