From The Los Angeles Times: They used be called the Bench Mob. Now they are just (hey, you fill in the blank). Whatever the Lakers’ bench used to be, it is no longer that. Sure, they lost a key member of the bench when Lamar Odom began starting for Andrew Bynum (strained left Achilles’ tendon). But the Lakers are supposed to have the deepest bench in the NBA. Lately, they haven’t even had the best bench in a given game. Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers’ bench was unable to give the team a boost. It wasn’t so much that the Lakers’ reserves scored only four points and were only two for 15 from the field. It wasn’t so much that the Spurs’ bench scored 20 points.
From the Los Angeles Times: The Lakers took another turn for the worse, unable to clinch the Western Conference after losing at home to the very team they might face in the first round of the playoffs. Their old nemeses were back in town, with an emphasis on old, but the Lakers couldn’t beat the San Antonio Spurs, who looked like a spry, playoff-ready team in a 100-81 victory Sunday at Staples Center. It was strange, mainly because the Lakers won fairly easily in San Antonio almost two weeks ago, but it’s hard to win when you shoot poorly, receive no help from your reserves (again) and get generally outhustled for the final three quarters.
From the OC Register: The Lakers either don’t care enough or aren’t good enough to stop other teams from making their stretch-run statements against them. The San Antonio Spurs gave themselves a confidence boost Sunday at Staples Center with a 100-81 victory over the defending NBA champion Lakers, who might draw the Spurs in a first-round playoff series. The Oklahoma City Thunder seized a similar opportunity nine days earlier, routing the Lakers to fuel the belief that they can beat the Lakers in a potential first-round playoff. “Huge win for us to stay where we’re at,” said Tim Duncan, whose Spurs team came in percentage points ahead of Portland for seventh place in the West. San Antonio was further motivated by its home loss to the Lakers on March 24, when Duncan looked non-threatening and shot 2 for 11 from the field despite the Lakers then missing Andrew Bynum, too.
From the OC Register: On yet another day when the Lakers answered nothing, least of all the challenge of the injury depleted Spurs, Derek Fisher talked about his team’s playoff future, at least while it still has one. “It won’t be about any other team,” Fisher assured. “It’s about us. Where is our mentality? Where is our focus? Where is our direction?” And, most curious of all the past two games, where is their star? Nearly a full regular season into the defense of their title, the Lakers remain a nagging mystery. This much, however, is certain: If Kobe Bryant is still playing this way two weeks from now, they aren’t going to have to worry about winning at least one game in Cleveland during the 2009-10 NBA Finals
From the LA Daily News: The Lakers could have clinched the best record in the Western Conference and home-court advantage for the first three rounds of the NBA playoffs with a victory Sunday, but they didn’t. They also could have made a big statement with a win, but they didn’t. Instead, they played their all-too-familiar meandering style during a 100-81 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in front of a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center. They also raised a few more questions about their playoff readiness. The Lakers took a significant step backwards Sunday after making strides during Friday’s victory over the Utah Jazz. They looked sharp against the Spurs in the opening minutes, building a 21-13 lead. Then they lost their momentum and their lead.
From the LA Daily News: Luke Walton pretty much sneaked onto the court Sunday at Staples Center. A few fans recognized him when he checked into the Lakers-San Antonio Spurs game with 8 minutes, 58 seconds left in the second quarter, but for the most part he seemed invisible. Some bellowed, “Luuuuuuke,” but it was a tepid response. Walton played for the first time since Feb. 10, but did not score in a little less than eight minutes. He did not take a shot, did not grab a rebound, but did record two assists and two fouls during the Lakers’ 100-81 loss to the Spurs. “I felt good,” he said. “My timing was a little off, but that will come back.”
From Momma There Goes That Man (The Breakdowns of the Ginobili-Duncan S&Rs that I talked about in yesterday’s recap): Yesterday afternoon the San Antonio Spurs showed that, although old and flabby like Roy Jones Jr., they’re still going to be a tough out for anyone in the Western Conference because of their ability to create offense off of the high screen and roll. Take a look at these two plays where a suddenly rejuvenated Manu Giniboli picks apart the Lakers P&R defense – and note, they didn’t just do this to the Lakers, but to just about everyone they’ve played recently as they’ve won 11 of 15 games with Ginobili and the Spurs putting things together at the right time.
From Silver Screen and Roll: At about 3:41 this afternoon, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck Baja California. That’s a couple hundred miles from downtown Los Angeles, but 7.2 is easily big enough for the shockwaves to be felt this far north. The floors swayed and rollicked for a good 20 seconds. The structural integrity of the refrigerator box I live in may be permanently compromised. I’m not saying earthquakes are ever a good thing – seriously, I hope all you Silver Screen and Rollers made it through OK – but if one had to happen, couldn’t it have hit right before today’s Lakers-Spurs game? Perhaps then the contest would’ve been postponed, and we could’ve spent the afternoon hoovering down Cadbury Mini Eggs instead of watching the Lakers befoul this day with yet another wank performance. So much for the improvement shown on Friday night against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers reverted to previous levels of crappitude in falling to the Spurs, 100 to 81. Damn it, plate tectonics. Where the hell are you when we need you?
From The Lakers Nation: After the third quarter, Phil Jackson was asked in a sideline interview what it might take the team to win the game. Phil’s answer? A rabbit’s foot maybe? Nothing seemed to be working offensively for anyone but Pau Gasol this afternoon, and lightheartedly as Phil spoke, so did his team play. With a chance to lock up the first place in the Western Conference for good, the Lakers, again, played with little purpose, little heart, and with what set them apart last season, very little intensity. After such a great win against a strong Utah Jazz team two days ago, the Lakers spent Easter Sunday afternoon playing catch-up. Having led by nine points quickly in the first quarter, the Spurs went on a small but effective 7-0 run to cut the lead and eventually took the game over for good.
From Pounding the Rock: When I started watching the game, about 3 or 4 minutes into the first quarter, the Spurs didn’t look that good. We had a small lead I think, but we were taking a lot of jumpshots and Gasol was killing us, the Spaniard imagining us as Indians in order to get pumped up before the game. The offense wasn’t attacking and thus we were making things easy for the Lakers. Our defense wasn’t completely sucking balls, but as I said before, Gasol was having his way with us, and the magic 8 ball said, “Outcome looking shitty”.
From 48 Minutes of Hell: The San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich didn’t provide the Los Angeles Lakers a full-on beating, but their 100-81 victory was impressive. And it looked like it hurt, if only a little. The Spurs’ usual late season surge has come fashionably late this season, but here it is, roughly a month behind schedule. And I suspect the other party-goers are taking notice, whispering amongst themselves and circling the punch bowl. The Spurs beat the Lakers in Los Angeles by 19. In recent games the Spurs have traveled away from the AT&T Center to beat the Heat (+11), Thunder (+3), and Celtics (+21). The AT&T Center crowd cheered the Spurs to impressive home victories against Rockets (+17) and Magic (+12). And just two weeks back, the Spurs put up a near franchise record 147 points in a carpet bombing campaign against the Warriors.
From Land O’ Lakers (with post-game video interviews): One step forward, one step back. That’s basically been the pattern for the Lakers over the second half of the season. So stands to reason they’d follow a strong effort Friday against a hot Utah team with a clunker Sunday afternoon at Staples. Final score, 100-81. It was bad enough fans- those precious few staying until the final buzzer, that is- rained boos down on the team. And why not? They gave away a healthy portion of their Easter Sundays to watch the Lakers lay an egg (and not of the delightfully decorated variety- hi-yo!). Someone probably lost out on ham. Ham! The fans weren’t the only ones irritated by the game, either. When it was over, the so disturbed were the basketball gods they decided to unleash an earthquake on southern California. It wasn’t a coincidence, but a warning: Keep this up, and we’ll open up the ground underneath the arena and swallow the team whole.
Finally, I’ll leave you guys with some good news. Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
From Kurt at Pro Basketball Talk: Be honest. Your first thought was not, “Jerry Buss belongs in the Hall of Fame,” it was, “Wonder what his date will look like at the ceremony?” Good question. But the man does belong in the Naismith Hall of Fame and ESPNLosAngeles is reporting that Buss has made it. He will be part of a class that also includes Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone. Buss’ success on the court with the Lakers is one reason he gets the call. Since he bought the team in 1979, the Lakers have won nine NBA titles, they have been to the Finals 12 times, they produced legends of the game such as Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, they have become the center of the sports world in Los Angeles and one of the most recognized brands in sport. But it is really what Buss did off the court that earned him entrance into the Hall. When he bought the Lakers the NBA treated basketball as, well, basketball. Buss realized that what he owned was an entertainment enterprise that happened to sell basketball. It needed was some sizzle.