L.A. Times: It’s only an early-season game, and yet, it’s also a brief reminder of history.
The Lakers and San Antonio Spurs meet tonight in San Antonio, with the Spurs off to a typically solid start, the Lakers trying to keep their heads above .500, and visions of 0.4 seconds built into the backdrop as Derek Fisher returns to San Antonio as a Laker for the first time since his famous heave in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals.
The Spurs and Lakers used to be combatants deep in the playoffs each year, but now they’re on opposite ends of the postseason seedings, with the Spurs trying to win their fifth championship in the last 10 seasons and the Lakers simply trying to get past the first round.
The Spurs’ cast of characters is familiar: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the franchise favorites, Bruce Bowen is the lockdown defender once referred to as “Edward Scissorhands” by Lakers Coach Phil Jackson for his aggressive hands-on play, and Gregg Popovich is the gruff coach who compared the Lakers’ breakup in 2004 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The current crop of Lakers? They’ll have to hear from Jackson, Fisher and Kobe Bryant about the five times the Lakers and Spurs met in the playoffs from 1999 to 2004. The Lakers won three times — twice on the way to championships in 2001 and 2002 and again on the way to a Finals appearance in 2004.
Even in down years — as in, first-round playoff exits — the Lakers are known to bring an extra zing to their games at AT&T Center, including a 98-93 victory in January that put them at 26-13, the high point of a 2006-07 season that became undone by injuries and a schedule back-loaded with road games.