- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't the Los Angeles Lakers-San Antonio Spurs game everyone is accustomed to seeing, with Kobe Bryant (Achilles tendon) and Tim Duncan (chest contusion) both out of the lineup for the first time since November 1996, but the competition was familiar.
The two teams, meeting for the first time since San Antonio swept L.A. out of the playoffs en route to their oh-so-close championship run that ended in a Game 7 Finals loss to Miami, might have had different personnel carrying the load, but the result was typical from the league's two most dominant teams in the last 15 years.
For the Lakers, it was suddenly relying on a guy like Wesley Johnson to spark them in crunch time (he scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth) instead of putting the ball in Bryant's hands.
For the Spurs, it was passing the torch, for a night at least, to the young, talented Kawhi Leonard and having him provide the double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) instead of Duncan.
But while Mike D'Antoni admitted at Friday's shootaround that he is still in the process of forming the Lakers' identity, the Spurs know exactly who they are and what they do, regardless of missing their future Hall of Famer in the middle.
The Spurs are still a very good team without Duncan -- there's no mistaking that -- but in a lot of ways, Friday's loss was worse for the Lakers than getting blown out in Golden State on Wednesday.
L.A. was rested this time. It was a home game. The Warriors had supposedly provided a wake-up call.
What stings is that the Lakers could have, or maybe even should have, won Friday. They held the Spurs to 91 points on 40.4 percent shooting. They only had 12 turnovers as a team (albeit leading to 18 points). They moved the ball, assisting on 22 of their 30 baskets.
But the execution wasn't there. The Lakers shot just 36.6 percent as a team. They squandered a double-digit advantage. They didn't close it out.
How it happened: L.A. jumped out to a 15-point lead in the second quarter before the Spurs, on the back of Tony Parker (24 points), stormed all the way back to take a two-point lead into the fourth. With the score tied 80-80, it all fell apart for the Lakers. Parker hit a jumper to go up two. Gasol missed one of two free throws when he could have tied it. Then Boris Diaw hit a 3-pointer on Gasol to push the lead to four, which was the closest L.A. would get the rest of the game.
What it means: This Lakers team still has a lot of learning to do. They're in a situation this season where a lot of things have to go right for them to make the playoffs, and the only way that has a chance of happening is if they aren't the ones making the mistakes that cause their own bad fortune.
Hits: Gasol got his numbers (20 points, 11 rebounds).
Jodie Meeks continued his hot start to the season with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Misses: D'Antoni sat Jordan Hill for the entire first through third quarters, and when the backup big man finally got a chance to play, he responded with five points, four rebounds and one assist in the fourth quarter.
Xavier Henry shot 0-for-6 after scoring 18 points per game in the first two games.
Stat of the game: Nine. That is the amount of stitches Henry received in his forehead after suffering a two-inch laceration in the second quarter from what appeared to be awkward contact with Johnson's knee. He was tested for a concussion and deemed asymptomatic, so he was allowed to return to the game with a wrap around his head.
Up next: The Lakers close out their fervent first week with their fourth game in six days when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
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