The Lakers visited the team with the best record in the NBA today, the San Antonio Spurs. The last time the teams met the Lakers lost in heart-breaking fashion, as an Antonio McDyess tip-in defeated the Lakers as time expired. However, when the teams met today things were very different. The Lakers were winners of six consecutive games, and they finally had F Matt Barnes back in the line-up. On the other hand, the Spurs had won 22 games in a row at home, and were looking to extend that streak against their Western Conference rivals.
The game started with a bang for the Lakers. The team came out with a clear purpose, and exploded out of the games. The Spurs struggled to keep up, as the Lakers shot nearly 60% from the floor. Added intensity from C Andrew Bynum was also a huge factor, as he finished the quarter with eight rebounds. Bynum’s effort was also felt on the defensive end of the floor, where he had two blocks and several other plays where he disrupted the Spurs rhythm.
Late in the quarter the Lakers finally saw the return of Matt Barnes. The reserve forward had missed the last 26 games with a knee injury, and finally made his return for the Lakers today. By the time the quarter ended the Lakers had taken a surprising lead, 34-13.
After the hot start it was going to be interesting to see whether or not the Lakers could continue their hot shooting. One potential problem for the Lakers would be falling in love with the outside shot. Once the team had gotten hot from outside they began to settle for long distance shots instead of attacking the paint. Fortunately for Los Angeles they stayed hot from outside, increasing their lead over the first five minutes of the quarter.
Despite the large deficit the Spurs were still competing hard on both ends of the floor. With the Lakers leading 51-24 Spurs G George Hill attacked the basket and was rewarded with a three-point play opportunity. The momentum began to shift back towards the Spurs. Los Angeles quickly killed their rhythm though, and regained control of the game. Things got a little heated towards the end of the quarter when Kobe Bryant picked up a technical foul, but by the time the half ended the Lakers were dominating the Spurs 65-37.
With such a big lead entering the quarter the trick for the Lakers was to not let the Spurs get within striking distance. The third quarter is a quarter that has given the Lakers trouble this season, so if the Spurs were going to get back into the game this would be their chance. The Lakers were unable to continue their hot shooting from the perimeter, but they still kept the Spurs at bay.
While some were expecting the Spurs to make a run in the third that run never came. The Lakers continued their tough play on both ends of the floor, and carried their advantage throughout the quarter. When the quarter came to a close the Lakers were leading the Spurs 81-52.
With a 29 point advantage it was safe to say the Lakers had the game all but wrapped up. This looked like it would be a good chance for the Lakers to rest their starters and prepare for their game on Tuesday with the Atlanta Hawks. The final twelve minutes were nothing but a formality in this one, as the Lakers had things secured before the quarter began.
A strange turn of events came about halfway through the quarter when Laker coach Phil Jackson subbed his starters back into the game with five minutes left and the Lakers lead at 22. While it had many Laker fans scratching their heads, it does follow the trend that Jackson has established over his legendary coaching career. Jackson has made a habit of playing his starters late in blow-out games on the road to maintain momentum heading into a long road trip.
In the end the Lakers may have struggled in the second half, but their first half dominance carried them through. Los Angeles extended their winning streak to seven by defeating the Spurs in impressive fashion, 99-83.