Photo courtesy of Harry How, Getty Images

We expected San Antonio would play much better than the last time these two teams met. We expected Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli would combine for more than just the 27 points they scored as a unit a week ago. And we expected the Lakers to continue their excellent efforts of the last week and a half to last. Well, two out of three isn’t bad, I suppose. Unfortunately, those odds benefit the opposing team.

The Lakers led by six points in the first quarter, finishing off the opening 12 minutes one point ahead of their visitors; both teams shot a solid 55% each. Andrew Bynum had scored 13 points already and Tony Parker’s hot hand collected 11 points. The Lakers stuck to their game plan at the onset, scoring inside (14-8 advantage in the paint) and moving the ball (nine assists on 12 made field goals)….then came the rest of the game.

In the ensuing three quarters, the Spurs’ intensity went up and the Lakers’ efficiency went down, in more categories than one. When defensive leader, Metta World Peace headed to the bench with early foul trouble just seconds into the second quarter, he took the Lakers’ defense with him. What else could explain allowing the Spurs to shoot 71% from the field for 36 points? The Lakers shot 50% themselves, but compared to San Antonio, produced very little from it.

It just got progressively worse in the second half. The Spurs led by as much as 24 points, which wasn’t hard to do since the Lakers did very little to stop or counter their attack. The rebounding efforts were exactly even in number. The Lakers led in the paint by a four-point margin, but the Spurs hit seven from downtown to the Lakers’ two. The fast break points were the same (20 apiece), and the second chance points weren’t won by San Antonio by a large number either. In the end it call came down, as it usually does, to effort and execution, none of which the Lakers showed much.

HIGH POINTS
Sweet Revenge (for the Spurs anyway) – You have to hand it to the San Antonio Spurs. After rattling off an 11-game winning streak twice this season, they were run out of their home court by a Lakers’ team who played without Kobe Bryant. Tony Parker was as hot as could possibly be, scoring 29 points on 14-20 from the field and handing out 13 assists in the process. He ran the Lakers ragged. Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake appeared too small to give him a hard time, and the bigger Lakers (with the exception of maybe Metta World Peace who didn’t get much of a chance to guard Parker due to his foul trouble) couldn’t stay with him. Parker had seven turnovers, but those double-digit assists help to overlook that minor smudge on his box score. The Big Three, as a whole, contributed 63 points on a combined 63% shooting and one of the league’s best benches chipped in 47 points. San Antonio shot 60% for the game. The Lakers couldn’t even hold a candle to the Spurs’ efforts.
Matt Barnes – 16 points on 6-11, 2-4 from three, six rebounds and four assists – Barnes continues his efficient, well-rounded game-playing. Unfortunately, the rest of his team couldn’t join him.

LOW POINTS
Tempo – The Spurs had just four more possessions than the Lakers, but Tony Parker was the puppet master of tempo tonight. He worked every fast break, every possession, so quickly and the Lakers followed suit. Speed isn’t the Lakers’ strength, so their attempts to stay with the speed caused…
Turnovers – 20 turnovers in all for the night, which sent the Spurs running off to score each time. Most of the turnovers were unforced, which made it all the more maddening. There were lobs that hit nothing but air and passes that sailed through unsuspecting hands. That focus the Lakers owned in the win against Dallas this past Sunday, the one that kept their turnovers to SEVEN, was nowhere to be found tonight.
Defense – In the second quarter, the Lakers managed to shoot 50% from the field, which would be considered solid if they hadn’t allowed San Antonio to shoot 71%. 71%! In the third quarter, they were allowed 68% and through three quarters, 65%. With the Lakers taking a sabbatical from playing on the Spurs’ side of the court, their visitors had a field day – who wouldn’t?! The transition defense constantly remained “in transit,” as in the Lakers were lucky to get two players down the court when the Spurs went running in the opposite direction. And then there’s the sorry excuse for perimeter defense. After Pau Gasol hit two open jumpers, Greg Popovich called a timeout in the first quarter, and it rarely happened again. Tim Duncan was out there shooting the same shots, and Bynum appeared hesitant to raise a hand to contest. If that wasn’t enough, the switches were even worse. The Spurs had the Lakers scrambling to cover every black jersey, and when Gasol or Bynum was placed in Tony Parker’s way, Parker either rose up for a jumper or whizzed past them to score a layup or drive and dish to a shooter.
Rebounds/Effort – No one thought Bynum would grab 30 rebounds tonight, but we hoped he’d grab more than seven. Bynum had seven rebounds (zero on the offensive end) in 33 minutes of playing time. What a disappointing showing for the Lakers’ center. Maybe it was the upper respiratory infection that was still bothering him, or, just plain and simply, he didn’t put in the same effort he did when they played in San Antonio. The 21 points on 8-16 and 5-5 from the free throw line were nice, but they didn’t help this team win.
Pau Gasol, 16 points on 8-15, had seven rebounds as well in 34 minutes of floor time. He had five assists and blocked one shot, but seven rebounds and just a single offensive board. It’s not like the Lakers were shooting such an excellent percentage either. They missed 41 shots and grabbed just eight offensive boards, just 20% of what they could have collected to give themselves more chances to score.
Offense – The Lakers’ defense wasn’t great, and their offense wasn’t any better. The Spurs aren’t the same defensively-suffocating team they used to be, so why Gasol stayed so far away from the rim is a mystery. Even in times when Bynum was on the bench, Gasol continued to shoot jumpers when the paint was his for the owning. He didn’t shoot a single free throw in this game, which is telling.
Metta World Peace – Marred by early foul trouble, MWP never got a chance to establish a flow in this game. He had three fouls with a whole second quarter to play, so he had to sit early and for a lengthy period of time, and the team felt it. If it had not been for the three fouls in the first half, MWP might’ve been assigned to cool off the hot hand of Tony Parker, and this game might’ve ended differently. MWP finished with 11 points on 4-11, was 0-3 from downtown and had trios of rebounds, assists and steals.

It was a disappointing way to play a game after building such positive momentum from their recent success, and the Lakers have only themselves to blame in this instant. They didn’t look prepared in the least and have no sacrificed yet another game to help in their seedings for the Western Conference. Next up are the Golden State Warriors.

Box Score