“They got a good squad,” said Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol of the San Antonio Spurs Friday evening, “they’re loyal to their style and it works.”
The style Gasol was referring to was the Spurs’ up-tempo offense and passing system that netted the Spurs their sixth win in a row, by demolishing the Lakers 121-97 in a route where the “Big three” all had huge numbers, and the team overall shot 61% from the field.
“San Antonio controlled the tempo,” said Lakers coach Mike Brown, “they had us on our heels all night.”
The Spurs set the tone right from the start as they came out pushing the pace in the first quarter and shooting a high percentage. Tim Duncan had 12 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter, while Tony Parker was leading the offensive push with six of his 10 assists in the first quarter. When the first quarter buzzer rang, the Spurs had 32 points and the Lakers had 25, the Spurs had already set the tone for the game.
After missing the last two games against the Spurs, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant made his return from injury.
“They did a great a great job spacing the floor,” said Bryant of the Spurs’ offensive onslaught, “they did a great job shooting the ball.”
The Spurs shot 67% (10/15) from three-point range, and though Bryant led the Lakers with 18 points, he had to battle countless Spurs defensive attacks that included Leonard, Ginobili, and Stephen Jackson.
The Lakers used a 12-2 run to take the lead back from San Antonio in the second quarter, but the Spurs would answer by bringing Parker and Duncan back into the sound of a 10-0 run. After both teams played sloppy going into halftime, the Spurs held a small four-point lead.
In the third quarter, the game took a drastic change as the Spurs continued to push the pace on the Lakers, but the Spurs’ defense had a solid quarter. The Spurs used a late 11-0 run to claim an 84-65 lead with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter. The Spurs would take a 91-73 lead into the final period.
“We did get discouraged,” said coach Brown of the Spurs’ attack in the third quarter, “San Antonio did a terrific job of playing their game and just continuing to attack us. They’re in first place for something.”
When the third quarter ended, the “Big three” of Duncan (21 points), Parker (20 points), and Ginobili (20 points) had accomplished something they hadn’t accomplished in over a year, all three scored 20 or more points in one game.
“They controlled the tempo the whole game,” said Lakers center Andrew Bynum, “they made shots, that’s how they got the first seed.”
The Spurs began the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run before both teams emptied their benches the rest of the way. The Spurs’ lead got as high as 26-points as they eventually won by 24.
One reason the Lakers are no longer looking unstoppable with their height advantage in the post is because of the adjustment Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has made when he faces the Lakers, he starts Tiago Splitter instead of DeJuan Blair.
“Splitter is doing a nice job,” said coach Brown after the game, “I thought San Antonio had us rattled with their physicality a little bit.”
“They’ve got a little more size with Tiago in there,” said Gasol after the game.
With the win, the Spurs stay with a half game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Spurs move to 46-16 on the season. The team will have Saturday night off before preparing for a four games in five nights stretch that begins on Sunday as the team hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers on the first night of a back-to-back.