The Lakers faced the San Antonio Spurs tonight, and the only real excitement of the night would occur pregame, when fans were basking in the thrilling news that rookie Jordan Clarkson would move into the starting lineup in Kobe Bryant's absence. Everything that would occur afterwards was far from enjoyable.
The Lakers' new starters got off to an inauspicious start, allowing the Spurs to begin the game scoring 9 unanswered points before Clarkson scratched twice on a pull up jumper, followed by a layup. Clarkson was just about the only positive the Lakers had on offense among the starters, going 3-4 from the field for 6 of LA's first 8 points before getting a rest. Nick Young entered the game and scored a quick 7 points of his own, but it was not enough to keep the Spurs from leading 31-15 after the first 12 minutes.
Things did not get any better in the second quarter, where the Lakers inability to find any semblance of consistency on offense paired with their usual seeming lack of a game plan other than "let the other team score" on defense left them trailing 38-56 at the half. Clarkson and Young continued to be the Lakers' only bright spots, and the two combined for 17 of the Lakers 38 points.
The Lakers gathered a little momentum at the end of the third, and would cut the lead to as little as 10 with 10 minutes left to play, but then allowed a quick 7-0 Spurs spurt that essentially put the game on ice for good. This was an impressive performance by a Spurs team in response to getting blown out by the Chicago Bulls in front of TNT's national audience last night, in a performance coach Gregg Popovich said that fans should get refunds on. The Spurs Big Four of Manu Ginobili (15), Tim Duncan (14), Tony Parker (17), and the newly returned Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (15) all scored in double digits rather effortlessly on the evening, so despite Young (17 points, 3 three pointers) and Clarkson's (11 points on 5-9 shooting in a strong starting debut) attempted heroics, Los Angeles was not able to offer up even close to enough resistance tonight.
Perhaps the most shocking event of the night was the absence of Jeremy Lin, who Byron Scott evidently could not find minutes for even in Bryant's absence. There was no injury reported for Lin, meaning that Scott felt that a two guard rotation of Clarkson and Ronnie Price was the best way to go. It is hard to imagine that Lin's presence could have made a difference in this beat down either way.
Sadly (or happily depending on if one has jumped on the "tank" yet or not), fans of the purple and gold can probably expect outcomes like this with a lot more frequency now that Bryant is likely out for the year. The best thing that the Lakers can do at this point is to keep feeding guys like Clarkson all the minutes they can handle and hope they keep showing positive signs like tonight, even if it leads to some tough games to watch. At least we will always have Kelly Clarkson!