From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant overdid it. Everyone could see it. Andrew Bynum lamented it with postgame suggestions to “stay inside the system.” Lamar Odom avoided it by answering several questions by flipping his hands over to show palms up. Phil Jackson said it flat-out, noting that after Bryant fired off his early shots, “Then it was time to slow it down a bit and get everybody involved.” Jackson also made light of it, smiling about Bryant’s stretch of 13 consecutive misses and saying: “If I was playing, I probably wouldn’t pass him the ball the next time.” As the All-Star who wasn’t getting the touches and shots that Bryant was in a game he – same as Bryant – had pointed to as a truly big game for the Lakers, Gasol wasn’t in position to laugh about it as easily.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant arrived at At&T Center Tuesday for early shooting, hoping that would set the example for dogged preparation and trickle into the game against San Antonio. He publicly undressed his teammates after an embarrassing Christmas Day loss to Miami and reiterated his sentiments in a more subdued manner during the team’s shootaround, hoping his demanding comments would light a fuse into his team. And he continued shooting throughout the contest against the Spurs, believing his scoring mentality would eventually lift the Lakers out of their current malaise. Instead, the Lakers’ 97-82 loss Tuesday to the San Antonio Spurs revealed the same problems. The immediate worries: the Lakers (21-10) are trailing the Spurs (26-5) by six games for first place in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers suffered their third consecutive loss for the second time this season. And they have experienced these defeats by an average of 16 points, the first time since March 2007 that the Lakers have lost three consecutive games by double-digit margins.
From Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports: Kobe Bryant pouted and cursed. He picked up a string of technicals, even wasting an ejection in one of these embarrassments just to make his bleeping point. He froze out reporters for a few days, then celebrated Christmas by calling out his teammates after LeBron James had run over them. These Los Angeles Lakers were too complacent, he said. They didn’t work hard enough. He vowed to kick them in practice. Toughen them until they’d awoken from their winter slumber. After the Lakers’ malaise had stretched some 1,200 miles to the southeast and into a third game, Bryant found a new target for his ire. The San Antonio Spurs had flattened the champs, just like the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat had before them, and on this night Bryant pointed blame where blame was most deserved.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Right about now, Phil Jackson might be wishing he’d retired last summer when he had the chance. His Lakers have fallen completely apart, a fact that became apparent on Christmas Day and blindingly obvious tonight in an 82 to 97 walloping at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. The purp and yellow have not only lost three straight games but have failed to be competitive in any of them. Since 2008 the Lakers have been the bully of the NBA schoolyard. Now that bully has been knocked to the ground, and everyone’s getting their punches in while they can. If Phil can somehow pull this situation back together and win another title – hey, a girl can dream – he’ll have earned every last dime of his prodigious salary.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The Lakers lost going away, despite quiet nights from both Manu Ginobili (nine points), and Tim Duncan (one field goal). Why? They shot 35 percent as a team, had critical turnovers, and couldn’t control guys like DeJuan Blair (17 points, 15 boards). Still, San Antonio shot a manageable 42.5 percent, and left the door open. The Lakers just kicked the door jamb — repeatedly — as they tried to go through. As it stands, the Lakers, facing another tough game Wednesday in New Orleans, will either need to play dramatically better basketball over their final 50 games in the face of a brutal schedule, or hope San Antonio comes back to the pack. Credit the Spurs — they played a strong team game and don’t look the slightest bit ready to backslide. The Lakers will improve as the season goes along (it’ll take some time, though, because what ails them is far more than simple boredom), but the context of this season has very likely shifted for good.
From Andrew McNeill, 48MOH: San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich never said anything to give the belief that this was the team’s most important game thus far this season. No, we all did that for him. But he sure did wear the look of a man who knew this was a big game. “Coach Pop came in yesterday at practice and set the tone,” Spurs guard Gary Neal said after the game. “He was real to the point and direct on what he expected us to do, especially on the defensive end.” Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News called it “Game Face Pop.” And from top to bottom on Tuesday night, the Spurs reflected the attitude of their coach. San Antonio played quite possibly their best defensive game of the season in holding the Lakers to 35.4% shooting in a 97-82 win over the two-time defending champs.
From Tim Griffin, San Antonio Express News: The play of the night in San Antonio’s convincing victory over the Lakers came from perhaps their unlikeliest source of mayhem. George Hill is known by his teammates as one of the most unassuming players on the team. So it was more than a little out of character when he got into Kobe Bryant’s face and jawed with him with 4:49 left in the second quarter. “I just wanted him to know that you might be an NBA All-Star and the MVP, but I won’t back down from anybody,” Hill said. The Lakers took the lead on the ensuing possession, but Hill’s willingness to stand up to the league’s foremost scorer and trash talker got a point across to his teammates. They responded with a big spurt to start the third quarter and cruised from there to a convincing 97-82 victory over the two-time defending NBA champs.
From Charley Rosen, NBA Fanhouse: OK, the Lakers claimed that the piece of coal that the Heat presented them with on Christmas Day was due to their lack of focus and their failure to approach the game with an appropriate sense of urgency. And after being publicly berated by both Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, as well as a feisty practice session, the Lakers collectively swore that their championship chops were fully restored. How then to explain another lopsided loss, this one in San Antonio? Here’s how: Kobe set out to try to win the game single-handedly. He didn’t pass the ball until 4:15 of the first quarter — and only after taking seven shots and committing four turnovers. Indeed, in the entire first half, Kobe only threw two passes.
From Tom Ziller, SB Nation: Whether Kobe Bryant has been a great NBA player for the last 14 seasons has never been in question; he’s among history’s greatest scorers, and is quite possibly the most skilled offensive player ever. But if there’s a nagging scab on Kobe’s illustrious career, through five (and counting) championships and an MVP and an Olympic gold medal, it’s that he’s considered to be a selfish player. When the Spurs blew out the Lakers on Tuesday night, that reputation was thrust back on to center stage. Kobe took 27 field goal attempts in the game. Pau Gasol, the team’s incredibly gifted pivot, took all of nine, despite
From Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Truehoop: In last night’s Spurs-Lakers game, Kobe Bryant got the better of Kobe Bryant again. When his team desperately needed him, he gave them a bit too much of him. It happens. Credit to the San Antonio defense, offense, credit to DeJuan Blair’s ebullient flair. But, it’s impossible to watch a live game and absorb all the complexities of ten jerseys, tugging TV pixels in different directions. Frankly, I just funneled an attention span to the Kobe show. Bryant started off shaky, out of rhythm. All seemed lost when he sauntered in with nine minutes left, Lakers down by double digits. In a rebuke to offensive sets, Kobe flooded the hoop. A deep contested two, a contested three, another three. Suddenly, the Lakers were tilting the see-saw. Suddenly, frightened announcers were sputtering: “He will score every time he gets the ball! Every time!”