Lakers Keep It Close but Lose to the Spurs


March 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry (7) moves the ball as guard Kent Bazemore (6) provides the screen against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers hosted the Spurs and as usually happens in Lakers games their first quarter defense is particularly horrible. Tiago Splitter started with a layup and the Lakers defense went downhill from there. Obviously three days off did not suddenly rejuvenate their defensive effort. Kawhi Leonard dunked. Kendall Marshall made a running three only to be matched by a Danny Green three. The Spurs had a two point lead. Pau made a terrific block of a Tony Parker three but couldn’t finish and Tiago Splitter had another layup. Pau had another block, this off of Tim Duncan. Danny Green then blocked a Ryan Kelly layup. With 7 minutes left in the quarter Jodie Meeks hit a three and the Lakers led 14-11. But the Spurs had another layup this time from Kawhi Leonard. And then another Kawhi Leonard layup. When Xavier Henry entered the game he was instant offense beginning with a 20 footer. He had a bank shot. A driving layup. Another layup. The Lakers went on a 8-3 run to end the quarter. The Lakers trailed by 6 at the end of the first. The Spurs had 35 points, They had 8 points off of dunks and layups.

More Henry in the second quarter. He was up to 13 points and the Lakers were trailing by 4. Another Henry jump shot and he had 15 and the Lakers tied the score at 40. With six minutes left the Lakers took a 2 point lead. The Lakers bench, as they have all season, were the difference makers. There was a Robert Sacre sighting. He had 7 rebounds and a block and made all 3 of his shots. He had 11 points in the game. But the Lakers had no answer for Parker and back to back baskets gave the Spurs the lead. Xavier was the star of the game in the first half, making just about everything he threw up but you got the impression Popovich was just biding his time, knowing he was going to cool off. Just for extra motivation, Dante Exum was at Staples Center, perhaps imagining himself in the lineup, but not this lineup. A Kendall Marshall 3 cut the Spurs lead to two, 55-53. A beautiful Kendall assist to Ryan Kelly and the Lakers were trailing by one at the half, 58-57.

It was a welcome sight to see Jeanie Buss at the game and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. It reinforced that the Lakers still do matter. The Spurs altered the lineup. Hmmm… Great coaches make adjustments. Boris Diaw was the power forward and Duncan was the center. Goodbye Splitter. Gasol had 12 points after two free throws and the score was tied at 67. Pau also had 5 assists. With six minutes left, and after a Ryan Kelly three the Lakers had a one point lead. (Side Note: Chris Kaman is in mutiny. He did not come out in the second half. Stay tuned.) Shooting 50% against a good Spurs defense Jodie Meeks drove the lane and the score was tied at 73. Pau Gasol asserted himself in the third and by the end of the quarter he had 21 points and 8 rebounds and the Lakers trailed by 5. But their defense gave up 92 points through three quarters. Uh-oh.

Xavier Henry’s hot shooting came to a grinding halt as Popovich knew it would. The Spurs extended their lead to 7. But there was too much Tony Parker. He pushed the Spurs. Kawahil Leonard made a three. Tony Parker made a jump shot. Tim Duncan made a 19 footer. Tiago Splitter blocked Bazemore. Bellinelli hit a clutch three pointer. And that was that. The Spurs went on a 22-13 run. The Spurs scored 33 points in the 4th quarter; the Lakers scored 22. Parker and Kawhi Leonard had 47 points combined. Duncan and Leonard had 26 rebounds combined. The Spurs shot 53%, had 34 assists and the Lakers lost their 45th game of the season.