The Lakers came into San Antonio riding a six-game winning streak. But four of those wins were against four of the worst teams in the NBA. They were winning but it was ugly. Although the Spurs are having a down year as they get older, they are still not a team to take lightly. But it seemed like that's exactly what the Lakers did in the first half as they continued their uninspired play as of late.
With Tony Parker out until the playoffs, George Hill would have to take over the role of scorching the Lakers. Hill lit them up with 14 points in the first quarter and 20 in the half on 11 shots. Fisher had no chance against the quicker, taller and stronger Hill. Manu Ginobili added 12 as the Spurs starting backcourt accounted for 32 of their 48 at the half.
The Lakers looked like they were just going through the motions. Their offense was stagnant and their defense was atrocious. The Lakers were lucky to be only trailing 48-41 at the half. The Spurs had many open looks at three-pointers but only knocked down 6 of their 15 attempts in the half.
The second half was a completely different story. On offense, Kobe Bryant got more aggressive. This didn't mean he jacked up 30 shots but he was actually active. Too often he's content to just pass it around the perimeter. This time he was taking what the defense would give him. Sometimes that was the jumpshot, other times it was passing out of the double team to a wide open teammate. Bryant finished with 24 points on 16 shots and also added 6 assists.
The Lakers moved the ball much better and this led to open jumpers. The Lakers hit 10 of 20 from three-point range and a few of those were big turning points in the game. Late in the third, Shannon Brown hit back to back three-pointers to give the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter, 66-63. In the fourth, Bryant received the ball with five seconds left on the shot clock and forced up a three over Roger Mason to put the Lakers up six. A couple minutes later, Gasol hit Bryant on the wing as he had all day to put up and swish another three that put the game away, putting the Lakers up 11 with three and a half minutes to go.
On the defensive end, it was Ron Artest leading the charge. If the ball got anywhere near Artest on the defensive end he was all over it. He had 5 steals in the second half on five different Spurs. He even contributed on offense with 16 points and 3 assists.
Also putting in a great defensive effort was Pau Gasol. While Gasol was limited on the offensive end (just 10 points), he managed to shut down Tim Duncan. Duncan finished 2 of 11 for 6 points with Gasol stuffing him twice. Based on points per minute (Duncan played 37 minutes), this was Duncan's least productive game of the season.
The Lakers outscored the Spurs 51-35 in the second half. George Hill was held to a single point after the break and the Spurs were held to 30 percent shooting from the field. The Lakers won, 92-83.All season I've been waiting for the Lakers to turn it around - to start playing with some sense of urgency. Perhaps this is the start? They've won seven in a row but will have a big challenge against the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday. The Thunder have won 10 of their last 13 games and are currently in sixth place in the Western Conference.