"I thought we were really raggedy on offense to the point where I didn’t know who was out on the court. I didn’t recognize the basketball team. Not sharing the ball the way we should. Taking bad shots, contested shots, no pace, was really tough to watch.”
That may sound like the San Antonio Spurs had a tough night in which they lost, but those are the words of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after his team barely escaped a Los Angeles Lakers fourth quarter rally in a game in which the Spurs were up by more than 15 points twice in the second half, and would hang on to win 108-105.
“We played poorly,” added Manu Ginobili (19 points), “especially in the second half, everything was slow and we were not sharp or aggressive.”
The Spurs’ offense turned the ball over 19 times in the game, but six of those turnovers came down the stretch in the fourth quarter. One of the only bright spots of the night? The sophomore Kawhi Leonard (11 points).
“I thought he was the highlight of our game tonight,” said Popovich after the game. “(But) Kawhi Leonard was the star of the show as far as I’m concerned. He had a great night and is getting better and better defensively and starting to find his was offensively.”
Even Kobe Bryant (27 points), who shot 10-of-24 on the night, gave credit to Leonard. : “It was Kawhi’s defense,” said Bryant of his tough shooting night, “he did a good job.”
Here’s the rundown of the Spurs’ narrow escape in which they almost lost a game they dominated in throughout.
First quarter: Spurs 24, Lakers 17
Here comes the bench – After the Spurs and Lakers initially traded basket for basket, it was the bench play of Ginobili and Stephen Jackson (14 points) that sparked a 7-1 run for the Spurs midway through the quarter to boost the teams lead to eight points. The bench would close the quarter strong with a 5-0 run from Gary Neal (12 points) and Tiago Splitter (14 points). Metta World Peace (23 points) poured in seven points in the first too.
Tear-drop after tear-drop – Early in the first quarter, Tony Parker (24 points) went on a tear by scoring multiple tear-drops on his way to eight points in the first quarter.
Second quarter: Spurs 54, Lakers 45
Nash’s group – Midway through the second, the Lakers’ bench alongside Steve Nash (14 points) went on a 9-2 run to get the Spurs’ 11-point lead down to three points.
Closing the quarter strongly – The final play for the Spurs to end the half was a Ginobili slam dunk off a no-look pass from Parker as the Spurs ended the quarter on a 6-2 run.
The South American duo – In the second, whether it was taking Robert Sacre one-on-one in the paint or tipping in a missed basket, Splitter (Brazil) was able to pour in 10 points in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Ginobili (Argentina) was also able to score 12 points in a variety of ways: dunks, layups, or making 3-point baskets.
Third quarter: Spurs 85, Lakers 75
Leonard’s nine – In the third quarter, Leonard made his mark by scoring nine points in the quarter by stealing passes and finishing on the other side of the floor, or what was remarkable was a step-back Leonard 3-pointer.
More tear-drops – In the third, Parker continued to do what he did in the first, make more tear-drops. Parker scored 12 more points in the third quarter.
Bean tho – The Spurs’ lead got as high as 17 points, but Bryant wouldn’t allow the Lakers to be blown out in the third quarter as he led his team on a 9-2 run with deep 3-pointers and even getting to the free throw line. Bryant alone scored 14 points in the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: Spurs 108, Lakers 105
#Trill to ejection – Jackson would come into the fourth quarter and score nine points to put the Spurs on a 12-6 run that extended their lead to 16 with 7:07 remaining in the game. With 3:32 left in the game, Jackson was called for back-to-back technical fouls and ejected from the game, and the Lakers were already in the midst of a 14-4 run.
It got close – The Spurs seemed like they were on their way to a blow out after going ahead by 16, but the Lakers, behind Bryant and Earl Clark (22 points), who scored 11 points in the final quarter, made a comeback to get the game within three points twice in the final minute. The Spurs pulled the narrow escape after the Lakers outscored them 20-7 from the time the Spurs were ahead by 16 points.
The Spurs will have Thursday off before heading out back on the road to Tennessee Friday, where they’ll be visiting their division foe, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs’ victory moves them to 28-10 on the season and 15-2 at the AT&T Center.
Closing words from Parker on the game tonight: “We made some good stops at the end. We need to win the game. In basketball it can go both ways and luckily it went our way tonight.”