Spurs @ Lakers - Notebook 4/12/11

By Bryan Chu, for NBA.com

THE FACTS: First chicken pox. Then a right knee. For the Lakers, this stretch might as well be the plague. Despite snapping their five-game losing streak after pulling out a 102-93 victory against the Spurs, who sat their starters Tuesday at Staples Center, the two-time defending champs are depleted and limping into the postseason.

Andrew Bynum has a hyperextended right knee after stepping on DeJuan Blair's foot. He will have an MRI Wednesday. Lakers coach Phil Jackson uttered the words "couple of games" when asked if Bynum may miss time. Steve Blake has chicken pox, and he is out indefinitely. Matt Barnes has a sore right knee. All three will not play in the regular season finale against the Sacramento Kings. And beyond that is an even bigger question mark.

With the win versus the Spurs, the Lakers (56-25) avoid the No. 4 seed. They could finish with the No. 3 seed if they lose to the Kings, and the Mavericks beat the Hornets. The Lakers can secure the No. 2 seed if they win tomorrow or the Mavericks lose.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Spurs (61-20) rested their key starters, Tim DuncanManu Ginobiliand Tony Parker. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wanted his team to stay in rhythm by playing the second of a back-to-back since their first postseason game would be on the weekend. Popovich didn't even consider that his team could lock up homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs if they were victorious in their final two games.

Back to Tuesday's game, Kobe Bryant had a game-high 27 points and Lamar Odom added 23. For San Antonio, Gary Neal tallied a team-high 16 points and Matt Bonner scored 13.

The Lakers led by as many as 10 in the opening minutes of the first quarter, but it was all downhill from there.

Bynum hyperextended his surgically repaired right knee at the 8:11 mark of the second quarter. The Spurs' second unit kept pace with the Lakers starting unit. Bonner sank a late 3-pointer and Ron Artest fouledRichard Jefferson on a floater at the buzzer. Jefferson made both free throws as the Spurs, who shot just 33.3 percent and had no player in double digits in the first half, tied the game, 45-45, heading into halftime.

Little-used Joe Smith and Luke Walton found themselves in the lineup together, a rarity. Bryant picked up his 16th technical foul in the third quarter after arguing an offensive foul with Spurs rookie James Andersonguarding him.

San Antonio's bench seemed to be having fun. After nearly every Spurs basket made in the fourth quarter, members of the Spurs bench, including Duncan and Antonio McDyess, were erupting in laughter and smiling from ear to ear. The game was tied 83-83 after Bonner hit a 3-pointer with 5:56 to play, but then the Lakers outscored the Spurs 19-10 the rest of the way.

QUOTABLE: "It's not too bad. It was painful, but it's not that bad right now."
-- Bynum said of his right knee.

QUOTABLE II: "He could be out a couple games. There could be a bone bruise involved in that one when you hyperextend the knee. His reassurance was that he'll be OK. I kind of think he'd have an idea of it because he's been through it...he had some swelling...there's always concern (about Bynum's health). We've seen him go down a couple times and they were debilitating (injuries)."
-- Jackson on Bynum.

QUOTABLE III: "It was tough to see...to even think for a second that he might be out or this might be an injury that keeps him out for awhile, the impact that it'll have him...and as a group is tough to deal with."
-- Lakers guard Derek Fisher on Bynum.

THE STAT: 5 -- The number of Lakers who played more minutes than the Spurs' George Hill, who logged a team-high 27 minutes. (Artest -- 29; Gasol -- 40; Bryant -- 36; Fisher -- 35; Odom -- 36)

TURNING POINT: Bynum going down in the second quarter. This could impact not only the Lakers, but also the entire NBA postseason landscape.

QUOTABLE III: "I think we showed the character, the heart that we have and that we're a pretty deep team."
- Hill on the Spurs' performance.

HOT: Pau Gasol was the only player to get anything going in the game. He had a double-double with 17 points and 17 rebounds. He was 7-for-12 from the field.

NOT: The Lakers as a team. Yes, they avoided dropping their sixth straight, but this was a Pyrrhic victory with the loss of Bynum, Blake and Barnes.

INSIDE THE ARENA: TNT analysts Cheryl Miller and Reggie Miller were walking on the court at halftime and that may have cost a contestant a Toyota Highlander. The contestant, who was one of four finalists with a top score in the Lakers' halftime skills challenge, was driving to the basket when both Millers stepped in front of him. The contestant missed the layup.

NOTABLE: The Lakers will call up forward Derek Caracter and guard Trey Johnson, who is averaging 25.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 39 games with the Bakersfield Jam, from the NBA Developmental League. ... Blake will likely be miles away from the Lakers. Several members of the Lakers, including Bryant, Bynum and Artest, have not had chicken pox. ... The Spurs shot 35.2 percent for the game to the Lakers' 45.6 percent. ... Fisher on possibly playing in Sacramento for the last time: "They'll be a lot of emotion and passionate energy (in the arena). Hopefully some of it will rub off on us...The situation in Sacramento is tough. They've been there for more than 30 years and they've supported a lot of NBA basketball, and if it is the last game there you have to feel for the fans, people in that community. If they do leave maybe hope they have an opportunity down the line."

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Wednesday @ Sacramento. For the Spurs, Wednesday @ Phoenix.

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