The Spurs were without Tony Parker and then lost George Hill about halfway into the second quarter and they still beat the Lakers by 18. Maybe it's a good thing the Spurs won this game. It moves them into seventh place in the Western Conference a half game up on the Blazers and a half game up on facing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
After the Lakers destroyed the Jazz on Friday, I mentioned the Lakers still had a great chance to win it all because they would have home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. And then they play a game like this and that thought goes right out the window. I don't know why I try to look for trends when it comes to this team. They are as inconsistent a team as I've ever seen. After last night against the Spurs, Phil Jackson said, "That was totally inconsistent from one game to the next shooting-wise and defensive playing." You're telling me.
And now I'll harp on the same problems that have plagued the Lakers all year.
1. Ron Artest - He hit two of nine three-point attempts and has hit six of his last 36. It's made that much worse if you were to see a reel of those 36 shots. He gets more wide open looks than anyone on the team. When he's not knocking them down that adds a lot more pressure on Kobe Bryant. It leads Bryant to want to attempt to take over the game and when he's not hitting his shots it leads to...
2. Kobe Bryant taking too many shots. Bryant took 24 shots and made eight of them. At one point he missed eight in a row. He also shot poorly against the Jazz but made up for it by getting to the line. He attempted to do that against the Spurs but their team defense was too good. Instead, it resulted in him turning the ball over four times.
3. Bench play - This will be an issue throughout the regular season and probably into the playoffs. Andrew Bynum hasn't been cleared to run yet so it would seem he probably won't be back before the end of the season. But Luke Walton did return to play eight minutes last night. He will certainly help the struggling bench. And boy did they struggle. They were a combined two for 15 for four total points. They contributed absolutely nothing and while the Spurs bench wasn't great, they still managed 20 points.
4. Defending the pick/screen and roll - The Lakers actually made a big push at the end of the third and into the fourth to cut the lead to 71-69. But then Manu Ginobili took over. The Spurs went on a 16-3 run in which Ginobili scored 12 points mostly off of screen and rolls. The Spurs are one of the best at running the screen and roll and one of the biggest reasons is Ginobili. He reads the defense and either: a. is wide open and shoots b. has a big man on him and drives to the hoop, or c. is double-teamed and can hit the man rolling to the basket. The Lakers aren't quick enough to make the right adjustments to defend this. It's hurt them all season and all three potential first-round match-ups (Thunder, Spurs, or Blazers) run it fairly well.
Lost in all this negativity was Pau Gasol's excellent game. He finished with a season-high 32 points, hitting 13 of 20 shots. He also contributed with 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. But he did allow Duncan to score 24 points on 14 shots. That is where Andrew Bynum would have come in handy.I've given up trying to spot trends with this team. For these final five regular season games I'm going in with the mindset that anything could happen. It's the only way to keep my sanity.