There are no moral victories in professional sports. That said there is something to be said for how the Lake Show has responded since the firing of Mike Brown. They’ve actually begun to resemble a quality basketball team which is still nothing to brag about considering the roster but it is – as the say – a start.
Last night the Lakers took on the San Antonio Spurs, a longtime rival that entered Staples with just one loss on the season. Safe to say that had Coach Brown still been at the helm this one might have been over before it started. These are the types of games Brown routinely looked unprepared for.
Instead Bernie Bickerstaff got a quality effort from his interim team giving the Spurs all they could handle…until when it mattered most.
There is much work to be done once Mike D’Antoni takes over. At least you know there is still plenty of pride in the Purple and Gold locker room.
In a classic Lakers-Spurs contest the two teams slugged it out all night in a back and forth battle that wasn’t always pretty but never failed to deliver on drama.
Kobe Bryant took control of the offense playing a hybrid Steve Nash/Gary Payton type role. KB24 kept the Lakers offense flowing as his incredibly efficient start to the season continued with a 28-point, 8-dime effort including shooting a sick 12 of 19 from the floor. Overall the Lakers were +10 when Bryant was on the court.
Another nice improvement in the absence of Brown has been the defense. The Lakers smothered the Spurs holding their Texas rivals to a woeful 38% from the field. As usual Tim Duncan and Tony Parker led the way scoring 18 and 19 respectively.
However in the end it was Danny Green that buried a Kobe-esque dagger right in the mug of Kobe. Green’s late three all but sealed the deal as the Lakers bumbled their way through a careless final possession that saw Pau Gasol jack up a desperate three from the corner.
Mix in an all-too-easy Duncan layup and some terrible miscommunication from the Lakers and you’ve got a recipe for a late game meltdown. In the end the Lakers lost84-82 but the effort given was the most inspired of the season by far.
There are plenty of fixes to be made in the coming weeks once D’Antoni and his wayward hoops philosophy roll into town. Again, there are no moral victories, not here in LA and not ever in the NBA. Still, this game was a welcome reminder that the heart of a champion still beats inside those Laker jerseys. Now all that remains is for the new coach in town to jumpstart that heart and give these title hopes a pulse.