Spurs Blow Out Lakers 97-82
“I couldn’t put the ball in the basket, and it snowballed from there. It’s my responsibility to make them. Things just kind of fed off me not being able to make shots, and everybody else started not being able to make shots. I just gotta put the ball in the damn hole. It’s my job and I gotta do it.” – Kobe Bryant after Tuesday’s loss to Spurs
With a little under five minutes remaining in the second quarter of Tuesday’s 97-82 loss to the Spurs, Kobe Bryant’s once unflappable armor showed signs of vulnerability. There he was, tussling, arguing with Spurs guard George Hill, not even a starter, let alone one of the famed Big Three that helped led San Antonio to four championships in the past 11 years.
Kobe stood there with his five rings, MVP award, countless All-NBA appearances and historic accolades, chastising Hill like a child, pointing his finger in the second-year players face.
Bryant is celebrated for his competitive fire and unrelenting drive, but this, this was nothing more than a frustrated bully picking on the smallest kid in camp….
The two-time defending champion Lakers, once bullies of the Western Conference, have lost three games in a row(all by double-digits) for the second time this season. They scored below 85 points for the third consecutive game, as Tony Parker(23 points) led a Spurs defense that held the Lakers to just 28-percent shooting in the second half.
Despite being out-rebounded and cold shooting from Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan (combined 4-for-19), San Antonio’s trio of Richard Jefferson, George Hill and DeJuan Blair (42 points) picked up the slack. The Spurs forced 16 Lakers turnovers and scored 17 fast break points, holding Los Angeles to eight.
For a quarter, the Lakers seemed to have found themselves, outscoring San Antonio 26-15 in the second stanza. But these aren’t last year’s Lakers, this year’s version is an older bunch, consistently losing steam as the game goes on. Los Angeles lost the next two quarters, and looked physically and mentally tired by the start of the fourth.
Bryant (21 points) was stifled all game, shooting 8-for-27 from the field, and missing 13 consecutive shots at one point. Kobe is no spring chicken any longer, this season showing an inability to turn it on at will as he has in years past. Over his last five games, Bryant is averaging 17.5 points on 39% shooting from the field.
Even with playing one of the softest schedules in the NBA, the Lakers are tied for 3rd place in the Western Conference with the Utah Jazz. They are 2-5 against teams with a .500 record or better, and have yet to defeat one of the NBA’s elite teams this season.
After a humiliating loss at home to the Miami Heat, Tuesday night’s game was an opportunity to show that championship resolve that everyone keeps talking about.
Instead it was another flat performance by Bryant and company, who failed to take advantage of Ginobli and Duncan’s off night, looking far from the unstoppable squad people expected when Andrew Bynum returned seven games ago. Even with Bynum playing big minutes, the Lakers were dominated in the paint(42-28).
Gasol and Odom, typically solid and consistent, combined to shoot 6-for-17 from the field – outplayed yet again by an inferior front-line.
After playing at New Orleans on Wednesday, the Lakers get two more games against sub .500 teams, playing Philadelphia(Friday) and Memphis(Sunday) at home.
San Antonio finished the month 10-0 at home, won 12 of their last 13 games, and at 27-4 have the best record in the NBA. But the road doesn’t get any easier for the Spurs, who face Dallas, Oklahoma City and New York over the next week.