After the third quarter, Phil Jackson was asked in a sideline interview what it might take the team to win the game. Phil’s answer? A rabbit’s foot maybe?
Nothing seemed to be working offensively for anyone but Pau Gasol this afternoon, and lightheartedly as Phil spoke, so did his team play. With a chance to lock up the first place in the Western Conference for good, the Lakers, again, played with little purpose, little heart, and with what set them apart last season, very little intensity.
After such a great win against a strong Utah Jazz team two days ago, the Lakers spent Easter Sunday afternoon playing catch-up. Having led by nine points quickly in the first quarter, the Spurs went on a small but effective 7-0 run to cut the lead and eventually took the game over for good.
Tim Duncan did a job on the Lakers today. As difficult as it was for the Spurs to stop Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan was himself, just as unstoppable, looking every bit like the model of steadiness that he is known for. He curled around defenders to get to the hoop, scored on mid-range jumpers, threw out assists when he was double-teamed. He is to the Spurs what Pau is to the Lakers — never flashy, but quietly and oh-so efficiently dominant.
Manu Ginobli, since Tony Parker’s absence, has been the secondary and often primary scorer for San Antonio. He was stifled by Ron Artest in the final quarter of their last meeting, but today, there was no stopping that quick two-step that has provided problems for every one of his defenders. If the Lakers had a second offensive threat today, Manu’s contributions could have been challenged, if not at the very least equaled.
Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant, who collected 22 points on 8-24, suffered another terrible shooting day and no one else on the home team scored enough (not even collectively), to compensate.
Lamar Odom, who had one of his most dominant games against Utah, scored 16 (6-13) and 19 (8-18) respectively in the previous two wins against San Antonio. Today he led the game in rebounds, with 13, but only attempted eight shots to collect nine points. For someone who, according to Coach Popovich himself, poses problems for San Antonio (and every other team in the league), Lamar should have been more aggressive offensively with Pau, especially with Kobe not shooting well.
The Lakers, down by 15 points in the fourth quarter, got to within two off a Jordan Farmar steal and pass to a running Kobe Bryant. It appeared as if the final run for the victory was upon them. After the ensuing timeout, however, the Spurs scored on three straight possessions and suddenly the lead was back to seven, then to nine, and ended in the final kill — a 19-point loss for the home team.
Laker defense today, like their offense, lacked execution in all areas of the court and against various opposing players; against Tim Duncan, against Manu Ginobli… against Matt Bonner? After that large deficit was cut to the equivalent of one basket, the Lakers’ intensity waned and their harried carelessness and obvious frustration took over. With less than four minutes left in the game, down by 12 points, Kobe attempted a three with no more than 6 seconds shed from the shot clock, resulting in a miss and Spurs rebound. At that point, it was game over.
The Lakers had chances to steal this game, despite sub par play from anyone not named Pau Gasol, but their veteran composure was nowhere to be found. It seems to get misplaced often this season, great wins against some of the top teams followed by baffling losses to others who aren’t even in playoff contention. But there are five games left before the real season begins. Hopefully the Lakers can gather themselves, their offensive weapons, their defensive intensity, and their focus by then.
Otherwise… let’s not even consider otherwise.
Pre-game Thoughts: Possible Playoff series preview.
Half-time Thoughts: 48-40 Spurs. Laker bench outscored 13-0. Seems to be a common halftime statistic.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: It would be too easy to place blame on the Lakers bench (again), but, Pau Gasol had a great game and Kobe Bryant did not. In the end, none of it mattered since the entire team seems to be lost on the significance of playing well before the playoffs.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol — 32 points on 13-20, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. It could have been a waste of an efficient game if he played defense on Tim Duncan as well as he could score on him.