It's a joke people. Don't send the angry email.
We mentioned Pau Gasol above. 21 points, 19 boards, eight dimes, five blocks, and a steal. Plus some good defense on Tim Duncan, and a clear demonstration of how his value to the Lakers goes well beyond how many shots he takes/makes. "He put it together tonight," said Kobe Bryant. "We've seen glimpses of that this season. Hopefully he can keep it going."
Gasol was hardly the only positive aspect of the game.
--Lamar Odom: In his second straight start, Odom responded with a very solid 16/10/3 line, and was particularly effective in the first quarter (7/3/3), pushing the ball aggressively up the floor and keeping San Antonio on their heels. While there were a few too many jumpers among his 13 shots, I thought Odom played a smart game, recognizing mismatches when they came up. He took shorter men like Richard Jefferson to the post, and put the ball on the floor against slower-footed guys like Matt Bonner. One first half sequence saw him set up against San Antonio's resident red head deep on the left block, then flash all the way to the top of the arc for the ball, then quickly putting it back on the deck to drive to the basket for the bucket.
Just plain cruel, really.
Jordan Farmar: Five-of-seven shooting, plus an assist, for 13 points. It wasn't an overwhelming line, but Farmar frequently showed an ability to control the tempo and find positive ways to assert himself into L.A.'s attack, staying aggressive without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Derek Fisher: Tony Parker had his moments, particularly early, working the pick and roll, and no question Fish had some trouble matching his wheels. On the other hand, so do most players. That's why Parker's an All-Star. But more importantly, tonight Fisher threw much of Parker's offensive production back in his face with a six-of-nine shooting night- interestingly, all from inside the arc (I could only find three games over the past season and a half where he didn't even attempt a triple)- and more importantly Fisher found ways to impact the game defensively. The box score only notes one steal, but Fisher deflected numerous passes and created some uncomfortable spots for Duncan's crew.
It was his second consecutive strong game. On my way back to the media room from the Lakers' locker room, I walked past Fish. "Lots of people trying to toss dirt on you," I said. "You're not letting them." Fish just smiled. "They've been trying do do that for a while," he said. "The hole isn't filled up quite yet."
Honorable Mentions: Ron Artest (18/5/4, including a great fourth quarter wrap-around pass under the bucket to Gasol), Sasha Vujacic (hit all three of his shots, and generally seemed under control in his 14-plus minutes on the floor), and most importantly, movement. Player and ball. The Lakers were very effective in creating high percentage looks thanks to quality passes, set up by aggressive cuts. They ran their offense with dedication and creativity, and the results showed.
Shannon Brown-- Basically everything he's touched this year has turned to gold... meaning he clearly didn't lay a hand on Monday's game. Perhaps he was a little geeked starting in front of the home fans, but Brown spent far too much time early the game dribbling. He used up huge swaths of clock probing and trying to find shots and even when he did find room couldn't connect. Brown was three-for-13 on the night, and this was clearly one of those "growing pains" evenings for a young player still learning how to operate as a lead guard in the Lakers' system.
And to his credit, he worked hard defensively and contributed to a solid night for the Lakers on that side of the ball. Speaking of which...
ONE BIG THING:
--Defense: The Lakers were leaking like political secrets in the early going, giving up 34 points in the first quarter and seeming to put a serious damper on the prospect of postgame tacos for the faithful. Alas, they tightened up considerably as the game went on. A 54.5% first quarter for the visitors dropped to 26.3% in the second and 41.3% in the third, and over those two periods the Spurs only managed to equal their output for the opening quarter. In the fourth, L.A. kept the clamps on, holding San Antonio to 21 points. The Lakers got a lot of hands on a lot of passes, limited cheap points, and forced turnovers. (Meanwhile, they took care of the ball, giving it away only nine times.)
It's the second strong defensive game they've played in the absence of Bryant. I asked Phil Jackson what changes when he's gone. The answer seemed pretty simple: If Kobe doesn't play, the Lakers know points will be tougher to generate on the other end. Thus each trip from the opposition becomes that much more important, each rebound more dire. However you slice it, the Lakers were effective against San Antonio's big guns. Duncan had 16 points on 17 shots, Richard Jefferson was two-for-nine, and after hitting five-of-seven in the first quarter, Parker was limited to three-for-11 the rest of the way. Only Manu Ginobili (7-11, 21 points) was consistently effective.
Lamar Odom, on what made the Lakers effective:
Jordan Farmar, on sharing the ball and Gasol's effort:
Ron Artest, on the win and Gasol's performance: