Lakers Gameday | 03/12/09 | Lakers 102, Spurs 95
Western Conference Standing : 1
Streak: Won 2
San Antonio Spurs
Western Conference Standing : 2
Streak: Lost 1
|Injury Report||Injury Report|
---Francisco Gomez, Lakers.com
Box Score | Play-by-Play | Quotes
|Los Angeles Lakers||San Antonio Spurs|
Byrant scores 23 as Lakers clinch playoff berth
SAN ANTONIO(AP) The Los Angeles Lakers are the West's first team in the playoffs. Kobe Bryant made sure of it.
Bryant scored the last of his 23 points on a 3-pointer with 1:46 left, and the Lakers secured a postseason spot with a 100-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
The Spurs have been the West's No. 2 team most of the season, and Los Angeles validated that pecking order. The Lakers also wrapped up the Pacific Division in the final rematch this season of the 2008 Western Conference finals.
Tony Parker and Michael Finley led San Antonio with 25 points apiece. Drew Gooden made his Spurs debut after being signed a week ago, but played just 3\\ minutes, scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds.
Lamar Odom had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles in his return from a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in Monday's loss to Portland.
One night after ending Houston's 12-game home winning streak, the Lakers wrapped up their road swing by bringing San Antonio's three-game winning string to a halt.
The loss cut San Antonio's lead over the Rockets in the Southwest Division to two games, with the Spurs heading to Houston on Saturday. The Rockets play at Charlotte on Friday.
Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs.
Trevor Ariza, who joined the Lakers' starting lineup this week, scored 10 points. Derek Fisher also added 10.
If it was a West playoff preview, it didn't feel that way until the fourth quarter. Los Angeles led by as much as 18 in the first quarter, but San Antonio chipped away, cutting the lead to 95-93 on a 3-pointer from Parker with 2:18 left.
Then Bryant, with rookie George Hill closely guarding him, drained a 3-pointer that quashed any hopes of a Spurs comeback. As Bryant left the court, several dozen fans chanted "M-V-P! M-V-P!'' in what is usually hostile territory for the Lakers.
The close finished belied what looked like a Lakers blowout from the start.
Forcing the usually careful Spurs into several first-half turnovers and the Lakers rolled to a 35-17 lead - the most points allowed by the Spurs in the first quarter all season.
Bryant had 14 at the half against defenders ranging from 37-year-old Bruce Bowen to the rookie Hill. Finley kept the Spurs as close as he could, hitting a trio of 3-pointers and scoring 17 in the first half.
San Antonio trailed 78-70 to start the fourth period, but the Lakers couldn't put the Spurs away. Finley's 3-pointer with 10:30 left cut the lead to 81-78, bringing the sold-out crowd to its feet.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game he didn't know if Gooden would play, then inserted his new big man for a brief spell in the second half. It was just the third appearance since Jan. 19 for Gooden, who has been hobbled by a groin injury since starting the season in Chicago and then being traded to Sacramento last month.
Notes: The Lakers took the season series from the Spurs 2-1. ... Coach Phil Jackson said if Odom feels any guilt for getting suspended for leaving the bench against Portland, he shouldn't. "Those instincts are just sometimes stronger than rationale,'' Jackson said. "It's just a cockamamie rule. It's a rule has some sense in it, but doesn't stand up all the time. It just doesn't.''
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LAKERS - SPURS PREVIEW
After some recent road struggles against other contenders in the Western Conference, the first-place Los Angeles Lakers had to feel good about taking down one of the conference's hottest teams in their last game.
They just hope to have something left for another big matchup in the finale of a three-game trip.
The Lakers look to build on a hard-fought win when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night in the final regular-season matchup between the teams with the best records in the West.
Los Angeles (51-13) lost consecutive road games against playoff hopefuls Denver, Phoenix and Portland before snapping the skid with a 102-96 win at Houston on Wednesday.
Kobe Bryant scored 31 of his 37 points in the second half -- including 18 in the fourth quarter -- as the Lakers overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to snap the Rockets' 12-game home winning streak.
Most of the postgame conversation surrounded a heated fourth-quarter exchange between Bryant and Rockets forward Ron Artest, who continued to jaw at each other the rest of the game.
"It wasn't much of a battle," said Bryant, who helped limit Artest to 11 points and 4-for-16 shooting. "I kicked his (butt) tonight."
Beating the team with the third-best record in the West may have been confidence-inspiring, but the Lakers will have to regroup fast for this meeting with the second-best. The Spurs (43-20) were idle after defeating Charlotte 100-86 at home Tuesday.
The Lakers are 11-4 in the second half of back-to-backs, including a 112-111 loss in their only previous trip to San Antonio on Jan. 14.
That win started the Spurs' 9-1 run at AT&T Center. After dropping three of four overall from Feb. 27-March 4, San Antonio has returned home to win three straight by an average of 13.7 points.
"We've been playing pretty solid," forward Kurt Thomas said after Tuesday's victory. "We hit a few bumps in the road when we lost a couple of games. But I think we've bounced back and hopefully we can show that on Thursday night."
Manu Ginobili led San Antonio with 27 points and Tim Duncan and Tony Parker added 20 apiece as the Spurs shot a season-high 57.1 percent from the field in their home win over the Lakers.
However, the Spurs looked like a different team in their rematch Jan. 25, shooting 37.5 percent in a 99-85 loss in Los Angeles.
Ginobili resumed some basketball activities this week, but he's expected to miss his 13th straight game Thursday because of a stress reaction in his right ankle.
With Ginobili sidelined, Parker has stepped up to average 26.1 points and 7.6 assists while shooting 51.6 percent from the field over his last nine games.
"Tony continues to be aggressive and play as the All-Star he is," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Parker had 21 points and seven assists against the Bobcats. "A lot of people joined him tonight and we played good, solid defense. ... Now we gear up for another game. They're going to keep coming. The challenge continues."
The Lakers will get starting forward Lamar Odom back for this game. Odom, held to 3.8 points over his last four games, missed Wednesday's win while serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in Monday's loss in Portland.
NOTES & CONNECTIONS
The season series between the Lakers and Spurs is currently tied 1-1 after Los Angeles split last season’s series with the Spurs 2-2. The Lakers last won a season series against the Spurs in 2006-07 (2-1), their first series victory since 2003-04 (3- 1). The Lakers are 5-5 against the Spurs in their last 10 games and have won their last three straight at STAPLES Center. Overall, the Lakers are 9-10 all-time against the Spurs at STAPLES Center and have gone 4-6 in their last 10 home games. In San Antonio, the Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 meetings with the Spurs and have lost three straight at AT&T Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 15-18 against San Antonio in the regular season. In the postseason, Jackson is 15- 7 against the Spurs, advancing to the next round in four of five series meetings. In 44 career games including 39 starts against San Antonio, Bryant is averaging 24.8 points per game. Spurs guard/forward Ime Udoka played in four games for the Lakers during the 2003-04 season, posting eight points, five rebounds and two assists in 28 total minutes. Manu Ginobili played for Argentina in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but suffered a foot injury in their August 22 meeting with Kobe Bryant’s United States team that forced him to miss the first 12 games of the regular season with San Antonio. Bryant scored 12 points as the U.S. defeated defending champion Argentina 101-81 to advance to the gold medal game while Ginobili played just six minutes due to injury.
LAKERS SCOUTING REPORT
There are some key things that we need to do better (or just simply do!) in order to beat the Spurs on Sunday. Some things we did an alright job of in San Antonio on January 14th but doing an ‘alright job’ against this veteran team just gets you beat. The first aspect is that we gambled too much defensively. When we gambled, they made us pay. We need to do a better job of getting to the correct positions so that we are capable of helping defensively. We need to make them make the extra pass then we need to move quickly on the flight of the ball. The Spurs play together and so we know they will make that extra pass. We need to continue our defensive rotations in order to minimize their open shots. We didn’t rotate well and consequently they were able to knock down some open perimeter shots throughout the game.
BRYANT PASSES ROBERT PARISH FOR 18th ON ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
GASOL EARNS 1st CAREER WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE MONTH AWARD
PICKING UP THE SLACK