Lakers 99, Spurs 85: Afternoon Delight
A lot of Lakers fans talked about this afternoon's matchup against the Spurs as the stuff that "revenge matches" are made of. Pau Gasol, however, maintained that despite recently leaving San Antonio with a team-wide sour taste in their mouths over a last minute game winner from Roger Mason Jr., that was ancient history. "A new day. A different battle," shrugged El Spaniard. For the folks in the middle, Kobe Bryant didn't mention fuming emotions surrounding the game, but conceded that a victory against this particular team always feels good. Thus, no matter how you stand on the topic, coming out on top 99-85 is guaranteed to feel good to anybody with a rooting interest in purple and gold success. And in particular, the manner in which is was crafted was pleasing.
After a tight first quarter concluded one point behind, the Lakers steadily began lapping their longtime Nemesis, beating San Antonio by seven point margins in the second and third quarters. The enemy never shot higher than 43% and book ended their afternoon with sub-forty clips. The Lakers won the battle of the boards 43-40, swatted an octet of shots and kept everyone on the Spurs in check, including the Big Three. 43 combined points for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, who registered just nine points on eleven attempts. Only in the fourth quarter did the Lakers delve into sloppiness, turning the ball over ten times after limiting themselves to just eight over 36 minutes. Then again, that was also a quarter where regulars Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum never got off their butts, so it's understandable that peak efficiency would be lacking. It's also a mark of just how strongly the Lakers took possession of this game.
Throw in Jordan Farmar's return to action about a month earlier than predicted, and the breakdown is mostly chock full of sunshine, candy whistles and moon pies.
- Andrew Bynum: After a pair of games spent dominating an interior the likes of Brian Skinner, DeAndre Jordan, and the stiffs Washington trots out, this matchup against Tim Duncan would provide a true look at how big a wave Andrew Bynum is currently riding. Judging by how things shook out, surf's up. The fifteen points, eleven boards and four blocks were nothing to sneeze at, even if Drew was unhappy with his 4-10 shooting clip. (In a case like this, it's kinda nice that everybody is a critic). But more impressively was how Drew's numbers matched/bested Timmy's 15/8/0 swats, leaving no doubt as to who got outplayed. Socks used his length and strength to make Duncan work for everything, and did so without becoming a whistle magnet. After picking up his second foul with a little less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Bynum played the next sixteen or so minutes without drawing the refs' ire. That made it easier to alter countless San Antonio attempts into bricks.
Also cool was seeing Bynum draw multiple defenders on a more regular basis and appear comfortable handling the attention. "He's starting to recognize the double teams and where to move the ball to," praised Kobe. "That's the next stage of development for him. He obviously hasn't seen double teams like this since he's been in the league."
- Lamar Odom: Unlike Bynum, Lamar's impact won't come revered by a scoring enthusiast (6 points on 3-9 shooting). But like AB17, he made quite the defensive impact on the boards and forcing misses. Ten boards off the bench can obviously be tallied up in the box score, but the amount of shots LO used his length to bother won't grace a score sheet. But make no mistake, he was making his presence felt, and in a variety of ways. Shadowing guys like Mason all the way to the hole and forcing a wild miss. Staying with Tony Parker in the paint through a series of dribbles, forcing a tough fadeaway that didn't come close. Closing hard on a Matt Bonner triple. While rarely a true "lockdown" defender, I've always felt LO's defensive abilities often go underrated. This was a great showcase of everything he can do.
- Trevor Ariza: He turned the ball over four times, but beyond that, not much else TA screwed up. Seventeen points tied a season-high, as did his five canned at the stripe (on as many tries). And while I'll never become entirely comfortable with Ariza spending too much time spotting up (It's simply too far removed from his strengths, in my opinion.), a pair good from the downtown stripe presented more proof of an outside shot continuing to improve over the course of the season. But like I said, The Cobra is always at his best when he's playing at the rim, which he demonstrated while skying high for an alley oop from Farmar and a drive that went "and one" after he completed a layup while spinning backwards. I wouldn't be shocked to see either play on SportsCenter.
- Ten fourth quarter turnovers: I'm not going to harp on them too much, particularly when you take into account how well the Lakers had taken care of the ball up until then and how Jordan Farmar's presence after a month's absence likely meant guys getting reacquainted. But I should at least mention them.
One Big issue
- Jordan Farmar's return: In the most literal sense, Farmar's startlingly quick return from knee surgery provided a boost. He was 5-7 from the field for 14 points, with a pair of treys and dimes to boot. Phil Jackson said he planned to only play the Bruin about seven minutes, but ended up tacking on an extra ten. "Good thing I made some shots," joked Jordan. Having him back and able to go 15-20 (at least) does wonders for this roster. Not only, as Kobe noted, is the rotation able to "fall back into their natural positions," but being newly at full strength allows Phil Jackson's long term goal of limiting minutes for entire squad (especially the Mamba and Derek Fisher) to become a reality. It can't be overstated how huge this could be come April and beyond. Potentially, we're talking a major ace in the hole game changer.
PJ certainly wouldn't disagree. When asked how important having Farmar was, Phil didn't beat around the bush. "A lot. Big."
- Andrew Bynum: Download andrew_bynum_1.25.09.mp3
- Pau Gasol: Download pau_gasol_1.25.09.mp3
- Jordan Farmar:Download jordan_farmar_1.25.09.mp3
- Kobe Bryant: Download kobe_bryant_1.25.09.mp3
Kobe Bryant on Andrew Bynum recognizing double teams
Pau Gasol on not treating today as a "revenge" game