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GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score San Antonio Spurs 32 24 35 30 121
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 25 27 21 24 97
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Spurs beats Lakers 121-97

By MATT BEARDMORE


Posted Apr 20 2012 9:22PM

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all scored at least 20 points to help the San Antonio Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-97 on Friday night and spoil Kobe Bryant's return.

Bryant had missed the previous seven games with a bruised left shin, and the Lakers went 5-2 without the NBA's scoring leader. But with only two games left in the regular season for Los Angeles (40-24), Bryant returned as he aims to get into a rhythm before the playoffs begin.

Bryant wore a black sock over his lower left leg, with what appeared to be a shin guard protecting the injured area. He scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

The Spurs (46-16) stayed atop the Western Conference with their sixth straight victory while the Lakers missed a chance to clinch home court in the first round of the playoffs.

These teams could meet in the opening round, and judging by their latest meeting, it would be a mismatch.

San Antonio has given Los Angeles its two worst losses of the season the worst Friday night and 112-91 on Tuesday. Duncan had 21 points and eight rebounds, Parker had 20 points and 10 assists, and Ginobili added 20 points and seven assists.

San Antonio hit 47 of 77 shots from the field and broke the game open in the third quarter, when Bryant played his best. The Lakers' star hit 5 of 6 shots in the quarter, directing his teammates on offense and yelling at them to "D-up" on defense.

It hardly mattered, though, as he was repeatedly on his heels on defense as the Spurs pushed the ball. San Antonio scored 18 points in the paint in the quarter to only two for Los Angeles.

While Bryant was sidelined, several Lakers increased their scoring, none more than Metta World Peace. World Peace more than doubled his scoring average with Bryant out of the lineup, but he had only 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting against the Spurs.

"We counted on all our guys (when Bryant was out)," Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the game. "I thought Metta stepped up . all our guys stepped up. Hopefully they just stay aggressive. I think we'll be fine, but we'll see how we blend or gel."

Andrew Bynum scored 17 points for the Lakers, while Matt Barnes had 14 and Pau Gasol 11.

"I think Kobe knew that if he came back too early from this injury, it would set him back," Brown said. "We didn't want to have any setbacks this time of year. He's been great the whole time."

He certainly got off to a strong start, going down low on Kawhi Leonard for a short jumper and a foul on the Lakers' first possession. Bryant hit the ensuing free throw, but he didn't score again until he hit a 15-foot jumper with 34 seconds left in the quarter.

Notes: Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong sat courtside for the game. . The Spurs hit 10 of 15 3-pointers for a season-high 66.7 percent. . Lakers G Devin Ebanks, who started with Bryant out, played only 8 minutes and didn't score. . Spurs C Tiago Splitter started and DeJuan Blair came off the bench against the tall Lakers' frontline. Splitter is 6-foot-11, and Blair is 6-7. . With Magic C Dwight Howard possibly out for the Summer Olympics after electing to have back surgery, Bynum looks like a possible replacement. "It's the same thing for any coach who has a player playing," Brown said. "`Rest, rest, rest.' You worry about the injuries, but at the end of the day, it's a significant honor."


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Lakers take on the Dallas Mavericks Sunday, April 15th at Staples Center at 12:30PM. Catch all the action on Fox Sports West, ABC, and 710ESPN.



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Points Bryant 18, 7-12
Rebounds Gasol 8, 1 OFF 7 DEF
Assists Blake 5
Steals Metta World Peace 3
Blocks Gasol 2
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POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike Brown:

(When asked, before the game you said “we needed to focus on tempo and rebounds”…)
“I don’t think we did neither. San Antonio definitely controlled the tempo. They had us on our heels. They space the floor extremely well. They found guys on the weak side for the three. They are a very good shooting team.”

(When asked it must be tough to let the Spurs shoot 61% from the field which was a season-high for the Spurs, was that the Spurs simply making shots or was it a breakdown defensively…)
“Well it was a combination of both. I felt at certain times we broke down defensively. We need to keep getting multiple efforts. If that multiple effort isn’t there against a team like this, they’ll make you pay. They’re going to keep moving the basketball. They’re going to keep moving bodies until they get a great look and that’s what happened tonight.”

(When asked if he was discouraged to have this sort of loss at the end of the regular season…)
“I’m discouraged it happens at anytime, against any team.”

(When asked we were here two weeks ago and tonight was the opposite of that night, does that make any sense to you…)
“That’s the NBA. Any team can win or lose on any given night. If you don’t bring it effort, in terms of getting multiple efforts against this team and continuing to play through the rebound they are going to make you pay. They spread you out. They don’t put anybody on the block. They spread the ball, screen the ball and they just drive and kick. They know exactly where their teammates are.”

(When asked what happened to Ramon Sessions tonight…)
“This was a big physical game and both teams were playing for something. So (Ramon) Sessions just has to keep gaining experience in situations like this. Obviously he picked up those fouls which slowed him down in the second half. But he’s going to have to stay aggressive because we need him to be aggressive in order for us to win.”

(When asked what he saw out of Kobe Bryant tonight…)
“I thought he was good. I thought he did some nice things on both ends of the floor.”

(When asked about Andrew Bynum having 30 rebounds the last time he was in San Antonio and tonight he only had two, is he doing something he should be or is that the breaks of the game…)
“I have to go back and watch the tape. (Tiago) Splitter was doing a nice job at playing our two bigs. They were doing a nice job at putting bodies on bodies and not allowing our bigs to use their length to go get rebounds. So you have to give San Antonio some credit with their physical box out play. In terms of limiting our offensive rebounds and even our defensive rebounds.”




Pau Gasol:

(On carrying a momentum as a team…)
“It might be different reasons but we have to understand who we are playing against. We have to understand what teams do best and take that away from them and let them try to beat you in a different way and we did not do that tonight. I felt like we played a little too comfortable tonight and they came out confident.”

(On what the Spurs did to control the tempo of the game...)
"They were a little more aggressive. They made more shots the last two games that we faced them. They have a good squad and they are loyal to their style and it works. Give them credit, they did their job. We have to make sure we do a better job."

(On the play of Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw...)
"They have a little more size with Tiago in there to play against our line-up. We still have to go and try and use Andrew (Bynum) and myself (Pau Gasol) a little more in the post and try to make them work a little harder. I am the player that will find the open guy and will kick it out to get good looks. This can be improved. (Boris) Diaw plays a lot of minutes because he is a facilitator. They are a drive and kick team."




Kobe Bryant:

(On his health…)
“I feel great and I feel healthy. I feel fresh and I’m back to 100 percent.”

(On tonight’s game…)
“They do a great job of spacing the floor and as a result our defense was always late. They did a great job of shooting the ball as well.”

(On the rebounding aspect of the game…)
“It was tough for us to get rebounding position. If you would look back on Andrew (Bynum) and his positioning from the first game to this game, for example, in the first game he was always around the rim and tonight he was not around the rim, they had him out on the perimeter. They also had him helping out on screen and rolls so when that shot goes up he is not in position to rebound the ball and they had their guards and wings flying in for offensive rebounds.”

(How long will it take you to be back to the real Kobe…)
“I’m back now. It took me a half to get back to my regular self. In the second half, I felt like I had a good rhythm but the game just got away from us.”

(What do you want to take out of these games with the Spurs…)
“Being able to make adjustments on the fly is really what the playoffs are about. It is a game of chess and you have to be able to make adjustments throughout the course of the game and being able to read each other throughout the game is something we have to do a better job of.”

(On how a team can make adjustments throughout games…)
“It comes from timeouts and being on the court. It comes from communication and reading and reacting. Constant communication between the players and the coach is important to making quick adjustments.”




Andrew Bynum:

(On the Lakers play after beating the Spurs a week ago in San Antonio...)
"They got us tonight and you have to give them credit. They came out and cut us up. They made a lot of shots."

(On the Spurs controlling the third quarter tempo...)
"They controlled the tempo the whole game. We could not do anything with it."

(On the next match-up for the Lakers against the Thunder...)
"If we want to keep the third spot we have to win. If not, then we will be fourth."

(On the importance of playoff position...)
"The way playoff basketball is with a seven game series, it doesn't matter where we are. We play the same."

(On what the Spurs did to defeat the Lakers...)
The made shots. They shot 60%; it is tough to get boards."

(On the Spurs physicality compared to the Lakers...)
"They are not more physical, they just space us out more. They body up guys. I can get more rebounds and be more aggressive on the boards, but they shot the heck out of it"




Gregg Popovich:

(Talk about the third quarter…you came out, moved the basketball and seemed to pull away at that point in time….)
“Well, we played pretty good defense in the second half, especially the third quarter. That fueled the pace and we kept the pace pretty good. .”

(You outrebounded them 42-29…in the last two games against the Lakers, Andrew Bynum has only had five rebounds total. How do you account for this?)
“I think we did do a pretty good job in trying to do work early and try to get him out of position as much as we could. He’s really a tough cover down there. I thought Timmy did an excellent job of battling with him. In the first game, I think he humiliated us and so I think the guys were fired up to play better against him and we did.”

(How do you think Kawhi did defending Kobe?)
“He did as good as anybody can do. Kobe, he’s not Kobe yet. He’s still got some rust on him, you can see that. He’ll be a lot more ready as we get closer to playoffs; that’s for sure. So we caught a little bit of a break there. But, Kawhi still had to guard him and learn what Kobe’s all about, so it was good experience for him.”

(Talk about the work Boris Diaw did defensively on Pau Gasol…)
“Well, Boris, he’s a high IQ player and people don’t realize he’s a pretty darn good defender. Offensively, obviously he’s got some skills. But at the defensive end, he’s been really good for us.”

(What do feel these two games against the Lakers in four nights has done for your (teams) confidence after last week’s loss?)
“We’re the same old guys. We don’t get overly confident or overly under confident; it’s just another game and anything can happen. We also shot well tonight. We made three’s and that made it tough on them. You don’t get too excited about a win at this point. You get excited about wins in the playoffs.”




Tim Duncan:

(On keeping the rebounding low for Bynum tonight…)
"We figured out we should probably just block him out. We started with that and obviously it was a focus for us as he hurt us earlier in that respect. It was a focus for us to keep him off especially on the offensive glass. What he does on the defensive glass I can’t take any credit for that, but on the offensive glass we just needed to limit his opportunities.”

(On what was the difference in the third quarter…)
"Getting stops. We were scoring enough points in the first half and so were they. It was about getting stops and stringing them together. We were moving the ball real well and getting the shots that we wanted but we didn’t stop them the way we wanted until the third (quarter). From there we got ourselves the lead that way.”

(On if he likes the big lineup with Tiago Splitter…)
"I do. We’ve done this before and we played a lot in the summer together. I enjoy playing with him. He’s a very smart basketball player and I love having some size out there. It’s fun to play with a guy like that.”

(On why he was so successful early with his shots…)
"I was open and I just made them. I’ve had that shot the last couple of games that we’ve played them. It’s just about knocking them down. I made them early and they had to respect it. I got a couple swings where we got some threes out of it. We also got a couple drives out of it so I guess the key is just making them early.”

(On having a game where “the big three” all had 20+ points…)
"It’s very good, we’ll take it. We’ll take any win like that especially down the stretch. We had four games in five nights and obviously I didn’t play one of those games. I know Tony and Manu were pretty worn. Tonight to come out and have that kind of effort from all the guys and win the game how we did was just a great game for us.”




Tony Parker:

(On the team’s performance in the third quarter…)
"Yeah, we had a great third quarter. I think overall everybody was very focused and trying to control the boards. Last time we played them, they really killed us on the boards and against them you have to control that. It creates opportunities in transition and everybody was very unselfish by moving the ball as we had great shots. Defensively, I thought it was one of our best performances. Tim did a good job on Bynum and Gasol by trying to contain them. As for Kobe, it was his first game and he needs a couple of games to get back in his rhythm. I thought Kawhi (Leonard) did a pretty good job on him.”

(On whether they can keep their momentum for the next couple of games…)
"That’s the goal. I try to play my best basketball when the playoffs start and the main key is still to stay healthy and make sure everybody is fresh. I think that is Pop’s main focus right now. If we can keep everybody fresh and get that number one seed then it will be perfect.”

(On the team’s continuity due to the high number of players on the court…)
"I think early in the season when Manu got hurt, it forced Pop to play Danny Green, and Kawhi Leonard. At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of question of whether they could play and everyone stepped up. Right now we can see the benefit of that because now we’re playing Danny Green twenty to twenty-five minutes. We didn’t expect that from the beginning of the season. Kawhi Leonard is playing great and I think it helped us become a deep team."

(On if he hoped the regular playoffs started today like normal…)
"We don’t really think about that. It’s been a crazy season as we’re all used to it now. I think Pop did a great job all season long to manage everybody’s minutes. We have another four games and then the fun starts.”

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Lakers-Spurs Preview

By MATT BEARDMORE


The San Antonio Spurs handed the Los Angeles Lakers their worst loss of the season earlier this week, but that came with Kobe Bryant sidelined.

The Spurs likely won't get such a break this time with the Lakers star set to return from injury.

The Western Conference-leading Spurs will be trying to extend their winning streak to six Friday night, but Bryant is expected to play for the first time in eight games and face San Antonio for the first time in 2011-12.

After its eight-game home winning streak was snapped with a 98-84 loss to the Bryant-less Lakers on April 11, the Spurs (45-16) routed Los Angeles 112-91 at Staples Center on Wednesday.

Tony Parker had 29 points and 13 assists and Tim Duncan added 19 points with eight rebounds as San Antonio snapped a three-game skid in the series.

"It went just as well for us as it went for them in San Antonio," coach Gregg Popovich said. "The Lakers had the kind of night we had back home when they destroyed us. So we had a good night, and we still caught a break.

"I looked hard, but I didn't see Kobe anywhere. I think that helped us a little bit."

The Spurs, one-half game in front of Oklahoma City, could see plenty of Bryant on Friday after he missed the last seven games with a bruised left shin. Los Angeles went 5-2 without the NBA scoring leader.

The Pacific Division-leading Lakers (40-23) are looking for a strong three-game finish as they try to hold off the Clippers for the third seed in the West. They were able to survive without Bryant thanks in part to Andrew Bynum, who averaged 23.1 points and 14.1 rebounds during that stretch, and Pau Gasol, who scored 21.1 points per game while the 14-time All-Star was out.

Bynum had 31 points and nine rebounds while Gasol had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a 99-87 victory at Golden State on Wednesday. The Lakers set a season high with 34 assists.

"It's been good to see how much the guys have progressed in doing things they ordinarily would not try to do," Bryant said. "Now when I'm not out there, you have to do other things. You have to experiment with your game, and they had a great deal of success with that and their confidence is at a high level, which is great."

The Lakers, though, will face a deep San Antonio team that might be playing as well as any club in the NBA. Without Duncan, who was given the night off to rest, San Antonio beat Sacramento 127-102 on Wednesday to end a 3-0 California trip.

Ten Spurs scored at least eight points, with Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal tying for the team lead with 17.

"Our best player (Duncan) doesn't play and we still win by 20," said Stephen Jackson, the lone Spur to play 30 minutes. "It's our preparation, giving every team we face respect, and going out and playing hard."

Duncan will likely return to the lineup Friday as the Spurs try to avoid a third straight home loss to the Lakers. Bynum's career-best and NBA season-high 30 boards helped Los Angeles outrebound San Antonio 60-33 on April 11.

The Lakers, who host the Thunder on Sunday before closing out their schedule at Sacramento on Thursday, will clinch home-court advantage in the first round with a victory Friday or a loss by Memphis to Charlotte.


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

4/18/12
W LAL 99, GSW 87
4/17/12
L SAS 112, LAL 91
4/15/12
W LAL 112, DAL 108
4/13/12
W LAL 103, DEN 97
4/11/12
W LAL 98, SAS 84
Probable Starters
Lakers
#15 World Peace SF #2 Leonard
#16 Gasol PF #21 Duncan
#17 Bynum C #45 Blair
#24 Bryant SG #4 Green
#7 Sessions PG #9 Parker
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Lakers Kobe Bryant
(tenosynovitis, left shin) is day-to-day.
Ramon Sessions
(sprained left shoulder - ac joint) is probable.
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None
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Game 1: 4/11 - W 98-84
Game 2: 4/17 - L 91-112
Game 3: 4/20 - LAL @ SAS
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