On a day when the Miami Heat lost their fourth straight to Derrick Rose's Bulls, the NBA's top seeded team from San Antonio got pummelled at the Alamo by a resurgent Lakers team, 99-83. The final score doesn't tell it all though, since it doesn't show how Bryant and Co. showed mastery over the Spurs for three whole quarters before finally letting down on defense in the fourth and allowing the Spurs to whittle down what was once a 32 point lead to just 16.
The Lakers outscored the Spurs in the first and second quarters 34-13 and 31-24 respectively. The Spurs would not be able to bounce back after the Lakers limited them to just 15 points in the third quarter.
The Bynumite did his thing on the Spurs again, completely locking down the area below the basket blocking shots and rebounding. He had 17 rebounds to go with his 3 blocks. This is how Simers puts it:
It was his energy, his 17 rebounds for a second consecutive game and three blocked shots that seemed to take the zip right out of the Spurs, who had won 22 straight at home.
The Spurs could counter only with Tim Duncan - who appears ready to make the transition to church league basketball - and a short, fat guy in DeJuan Blair, whose head stands as tall as Bynum's belly button.
As Duncan put it later, "I think [Bynum] was a key to the game, his offensive rebounds, a bunch of second shots, and defensively he bothered a lot of people in the lane. Just his size was definitely the difference." [Source]
Fisher and Barnes return from injuries and contributed to the win. Fisher had a sprained elbow during the Charlotte game which the Lakers also won. Matt Barnes had been absent from the team since injuring his knee against the New Orleans Hornets last January and had to undergo surgery. He was supposed to play last Friday but was prevented by the recurrence of his knee problem. Both however re-entered the fray at the Alamo Dome, playing at reduced minutes. Fisher did his damage with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 8 points; Barnes had 6 rebounds and 5 points.
The Lakers' improved defense showed in its devastating form as it practically reduced Manu Ginobili and Duncan into insignificance and kept the Spurs on the perimeter where people like Artest could harass shooters. There was even a point where Ron-Ron slapped a Neal three-point attempt into the crowd. Brian Kamenetzky puts it this way:
(T)he Lakers were able to take one of the league's best offensive teams and totally remove any flow and ball movement from its attack. San Antonio finished with only 14 assists. Even better, by taking great care of the ball at the other end (six turnovers) the Lakers limited easy run out opportunities for a Spurs team having a great deal of success this year in transition.
"We were very unselfish defensively. We covered for each other. We didn't care about guarding our man individually," Bryant told ABC's Lisa Salters after the game. "We did it collectively, and that was the key." [Source]
Kobe did his work, scoring 26, getting 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. Gasol added 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. LO contributed 15 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal.
The Lakers are still third best in the West but because of the Miami Heat loss, to move up to 5th seed in the NBA. They can cement their hold in the West if they beat Atlanta on Tuesday (Wednesday here) and perhaps get closer to the Mavs by getting a win from them on Saturday (Sunday here). But before the Mavs, they will have to beat the Heat who bombed them on Christmas day.
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