Lakers Shake Off The Rust
1Q Right out of the gates you can tell San Antonio isn't in the same battle they were with New Orleans. The Lakers are far more finesse than the bugs. Odom appeared to come ready to play, with several aggressive hustle plays. Kobe would also be making things look easy. Despite not having any points, he had many great passes, leading to open looks for his teammates.
2Q Udoka came off the bench looking good at both ends of the court. However, as the Spurs offense fell into a lull, Vujacic provided an offensive spark for LA, as well as a steal. The Spurs would go back to Duncan, trying to get something going again. The Lakers, playing with their bench and Odom, would dig in and tie it up at 33. Popovich responded by digging deep into his bench, sending Barry out early in the game. As Duncan picked up his second foul, he looked hesitant at times, as if he was still waiting for a double team, or perhaps he was daring them to do it. Parker was playing excellent ball, getting points and assists, even a few offensive rebounds. As the half closed, Kobe was still looking to pass, but it wasn't looking nearly as easy as it did for him earlier.
3Q Fab-O started the half very well, however, when Bowen subbed out, Udoka did not defend Kobe the way we hoped he would. Kobe began warming up, and Udoka soon had four fouls. With Kobe getting aggressive, LA quickly trimmed 14 points off of a 20 point lead, before Manu and Tim ended the drought.
4Q The Spurs were still holding a lead, but Kobe was single handedly keeping the Lakers in the game, and possession by possession, slowly chipped at the lead. By this point, Ginobili was clearly tired, not providing the fourth quarter spark he usually does, and with just over 3 minutes to play, the Lakers tied it at 81. Soon after, Bowen picked up his fifth foul. At 1:22 to play, the Lakers would go over the foul limit, as Fisher picked up foul number 5. Duncan would retie the game at 85, with 42 seconds left. Once the shot clock became irrelevant, Kobe would get into the lane to make a jumper. At the other end, Ginobili would miss a 3, and Vujacic grabbed the rebound and was fouled, making both free throws. With LA holding a 4 point lead, Finley fired an airball from long range, and with that, the game came to a close.
Review Both sides dug into their bench early, with San Antonio benefitting the most from it. However, in the second half, with this team from Texas tiring, the Lakers benefitted from their active bench. Kobe began aggressively looking for his shot in the second half, and once Udoka was placed on him, he began hitting those shots. This isn't to blame Udoka, he did alright, but Bowen leaves some mighty big shoes to fill. It was also clear throughout that Fisher plays with a mental toughness that few players possess. There were several plays that didn't go his way, calls that weren't in his favor, but he kept his cool, and didn't let it bother him. This is a huge plus for LA, where despite his lack of athleticism, he will provide heads up moments that will make life easier for Kobe.
Take Two Kobe will be looking for his shot a lot earlier next time. Popovich will likely give this group another day off, as well as give Manu more minutes on the bench, so he can give them a spark at the end of the game. Duncan may have had a big game, but nobody shot very well. Look for this to change next time, as a few more 3s will fall, Udoka will be better prepared to shift over to Kobe, and The French Flash will take a few more opportunities for the one man break. Kurt Thomas will definitely need to show up on Friday, as he brought nothing to the table tonight.
Duncan: 30 pts, 18 boards, 4 blocks Parker: 18 pts, 10 boards, 6 assists Bowen: 12 pts, great defense on Kobe
Kobe: 27 pts, 5 boards, 9 assists Gasol: 19 pts, 7 boards Kobe: (yeah, again) second half takeover
Most of America still hopes San Antonio will lose a series, but they just don't give up. Kobe and Co. made this game interesting, and it came right down to the wire.