With 16 games left in the season (including tonight’s loss), there isn’t a lot the Lakers are playing for. If anything, individuals are playing for the sake of their future seasons, be it in purple and gold jerseys, or otherwise. After getting whomped in San Antonio, there was no reason to believe the Lakers would play any differently today, but they did…at least for three quarters.
The Spurs got to an 11-point lead to start the game, which was no surprise, but the home team actually fought back, tied and scored ahead of their opponents in spots. Coach Greg Popovich even called some angry timeouts as a result of his team’s performance.
In the final 12 minutes, however, the Spurs went back to being mighty, and the Lakers went back to being miserable, giving up their 45th loss of the season, 125-109.
Xavier Henry (first half) – After missing two-months’ worth of games, Henry returned to the floor as expected – rusty. He was 8-31 in his last four games, but tonight he finally found his groove, flying high for a fadeaway here, driving into the lane to get a layup there, even hitting a three. He scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half, on 8-14 from the field. Henry was a bright spot on this roster when the season began, injecting energy whether he began in the starting line-up or came off the bench, and he reminded everyone of that tonight.
Pau Gasol – Gasol’s found a real consistency to his game these last few weeks, win or lose. Tonight he had 22 points on a not-so-efficient 8-18, but did hit 6-8 from the free throw line. Add to that 10 rebounds for a double-double, and a game-leading four blocks.
Quarters 1-3 – For three quarters, the Lakers really competed with the Spurs. They climbed out of a double-digit deficit, shot just a percent and a half less than San Antonio, rebounded just as much (36 boards apiece), had the same points in the paint (44), similar second chance points because they worked the glass, and only gave up 10 points off their nine turnovers. Other than the three-point shot, the two teams were basically neck-and-neck going into the final 12 minutes.
Xavier Henry (second half) – Just 1-8 from the field and 2 points to his name in the 17 minutes and change that Henry played in the final two quarters. Whatever gave him that surge in the first half, quickly disappeared in the second.
4th Quarter – The Spurs finally decided to bear down in the fourth quarter to finish the Lakers. They shot a blistering 63% from the field, to the Laker’s 21. The Lakers were outrebounded 16-10, and despite San Antonio committing twice as many turnovers as they, they could only turn it into four points. The Spurs led by as many as 17 points.
Ball Movement – With Jordan Farmar out again for the next two weeks, Kendall Marshall was the sole point guard in a Laker uniform. In the most recent past when he has been the only point guard available, Marshall flourished offensively; not only by setting up teammates, but scoring in bunches himself. Against one of the leagues finest floor generals in Tony Parker, Marshall needed to bring his A-game, but could only muster a B. Yes, he scored 10 points on 4-7 from the field, but he also had just three assists. In 23 minutes of playing time, that is nowhere near enough. In effect, the Lakers handed out just 19 assists on 39 made field goals, while the Spurs had 34 assists in 50 of their made shots.
It’s going to be a long 15 games ahead. Having to let go of the dream that Phil Jackson would return is gone, the future of this team is unbeknownst to everyone (it appears, some would say, to even the front office) and the potential of more disappointment is just plain sad. Next up are the Washington Wizards, who defeated the Lakers in their last meeting in Washington, DC.