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Crunch Time: How the Lakers Closed the Spurs
The Doggfather approved.
Went it got down to crunch time in San Antonio on Sunday, the Lakers had all the answers they needed on both ends of the floor. And when a huge block led to a clutch triple with only a few minutes left, Snoop Dogg — representing in Texas wearing an all-Lakers outfit — got out of his seat to celebrate.
The Lakers were in control for most of the game, until a 19-point lead evaporated into a tie with just four minutes remaining. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had an open look to retake the advantage, but missed.
Yet as the ball bounced out of bounds, Frank Vogel made the decision to run a play for KCP and give his shooter another shot. It worked, as he darted around an Anthony Davis pick and put the Lakers up for good.
It was a big moment for Caldwell-Pope, who was in the game following an injury to Avery Bradley. It was also a huge show of faith in KCP, who has hit 48.5 percent of his shots in his last four games after starting the season 0-for-9 in his first two.
One possession later, Caldwell-Pope splashed another triple, silencing the San Antonio crowd (well, except for Snoop).
But in between those KCP buckets, it was the Dwight Howard show.
With a 14-point, 13-rebound performance, Howard was strong all night. But he was also the MVP of crunch time.
San Antonio tried to retie the game after Caldwell-Pope’s first bucket, and DeMar DeRozan caught LeBron James (who has been otherwise excellent defensively this season) looking the wrong way.
With a step on James, DeRozan — one of the league’s elite slashers — should have gotten an easy layup, but instead Howard stepped in and used his lighting-quick hands to knock the ball away and spark a fast-break that ended with KCP’s trey.
But that was far from Dwight’s only clutch contribution. He had two points, three rebounds and two blocks in those final four minutes — including a high-flying put-back to make it a three-possession game and a big swat that led to LeBron free throws.
However, his best play may have been one that didn’t even show up in the box score, as he used those aforementioned hands to stop LaMarcus Aldridge’s fast-break and regain possession by hitting it off his leg.
It was an especially fitting moment considering Howard’s outlook on his place on this team.
“I don’t really look at it as a role — I look at it as my purpose,” Howard said. “It’s my purpose to go out every night and give this team energy, play great defense, block shots, run the floor, do all the little things that might not show up in the stat sheet.”
It took all five guys on the floor for the Lakers to finish this one on a 13-6 run. Davis took advantage of a mismatch for a key basket. LeBron got to the line twice. Danny Green played strong defense.
And it was more than enough to make sure the Dogg had his day.
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