With 19.9 seconds remaining and the San Antonio Spurs trailing the Los Angeles Lakers 82-81 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, the Spurs didn’t draw up a play for Tony Parker or Tim Duncan. On this night in Los Angeles, the Spurs drew up a play for Danny Green who was being defended by the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. With Bryant not playing Green closely, Green made him pay.
The Spurs used a screen to free Green (11 points) for a 3-pointer that Bryant (28 points) was late to react to. By the time the ball sunk through the net, Bryant showed emotion and frustration on his face for giving up the basket.
The Lakers would have once more chance to score, but Kawhi Leonard played his best defense to keep the ball out of Bryant’s hands and so Pau Gasol had to take a forced jumper, and the Spurs won a thriller 84-82.
Here’s the rundown.
The 4-Quarter Slim Down
First quarter: After Bryant hit the opening shot, the Spurs began a 10-0 run. However, the Lakers responded with a 14-0 run that eventually turned into a 19-4 run to give the Lakers a 26-18 advantage after one. The Lakers held the Spurs under 20 points and 36% shooting, while Tony Parker (19 points) opened with eight points. The Lakers size was a problem as they held the Spurs to just six attempts in the paint, while the other 14 jump shots came from the outside. The Spurs only turned the ball over four times in the first.
Second quarter: The turnovers weren’t a problem for the Spurs in the second quarter, but scoring was for both teams. At halftime, the Lakers lead 43-38. Both teams only combined for 39 points in the quarter. By half, the Spurs were shooting 37% while the Lakers were shooting 44%. Low shooting percentages for the Spurs mixed with nine turnovers by the Lakers made the second quarter a really sloppy one.
Third quarter: It was a defensive minded third quarter for both teams as the Spurs outscored the Lakers 22-16 to take a 60-59 lead into the fourth quarter. The Spurs used a 7-0 run early in the third to build a 3-point lead, but the Lakers responded late with a 7-0 run to regain the lead. Tim Duncan (18 points) was instrumental in helping the Spurs close the quarter on a 5-0 run.
Fourth quarter: The most entertaining quarter was the fourth quarter. Not only was it the only quarter where both of the teams scored 23 or more points, but the quarter had its ups and downs for both teams as it headed to its grand finale. Aside from Green’s game winner, there were some thrilling plays like when Parker forced a jump shot, and ran and grabbed his own rebound in mid-air for a lay-up. Then there was a classic Duncan play as he completed a hook shot on the glass over Dwight Howard (13 points) and Pau Gasol (10 points). The Spurs ended the game with just eight turnovers, which was a vast improvement over their last few games where they had been turning the ball over 15 times per game.
After the game, Leonard spoke of the final play for the Lakers in which he denied Bryant the ball. “I tried to make him go left,” said Leonard, “I just tried to keep the ball out of his hands, because you know Kobe always hits the game winning shot."
Out of the starting five: Though he mainly got most of his points in the opening first quarter run, Parker was one of the bright spots for the Spurs with 11 points and two assists at halftime. Duncan came to life in the third with eight points in the quarter, as he went into the final quarter with 14 points. Tiago Splitter was also very productive in the paint in the third quarter as he used offensive rebounds to end the third with nine points. Parker finished the game with 19 points and seven assists, while Duncan ended with 18 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks. But it was Splitter, Green, and Leonard who were also instrumental in helping the Spurs close the game out down the stretch in the fourth quarter with plays on both sides of the ball; Splitter with his nine points and nine rebounds, and Leonard with his deny-defense on Bryant who was trying to get free on the last play of the game.
Off the bench: Though the bench struggled scoring wise, Stephen Jackson and DeJuan Blair made hustle plays and provided offensive scoring in key moments when the team was in desperate need of a basket. The two combined for 12 points off the bench.
Player of the game: Danny Green – After the game, Parker said the Spurs used he and Duncan as decoys because they inferred the Lakers would think they were going to take the last shot. He said the team knew Bryant liked to stay in the middle of the floor and help on the main scorers so they felt running the play for Green would be the best option. The option worked as Green sunk the game winner. After the game, Parker joked about what Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told Green, "Pop said you're supposed to do that. He'd didn't even congratulate him or anything."
Though the Lakers were without injured point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake, Manu Ginobili also wasn’t 100% healthy even though he played some minutes in the game. Ginobili wasn’t one of the normal closers on the floor in the win. After though, coach Pop did mention that he’s not looking forward to playing a healthy Lakers team with Nash and Blake back in the lineup later in the year.
The Spurs resume first place in the Western Conference with a 7-1 record, and on Thursday they’ll be hosting the only remaining undefeated team left in the NBA as of Tuesday, the New York Knicks (5-0).