Bowen finished with 23 points in the Spurs' fourth straight
victory. He is the team's defensive star, so his success there
wasn't much of a surprise.
"His effort tonight was no different than any other night,"
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's not like he just turns it
on for Kobe or this guy or that guy. He does it every night he
steps on the court because he's a pro."
But Bowen was averaging 2.9 points a game before Tuesday, so the
offense was more unusual.
"He was open tonight. He was open, so that's his calling,"
said Tony Parker, who had 26 points and nine assists for San
Antonio. "Everybody knows Bruce makes shots from the corner."
Manu Ginobili added 17 points for San Antonio.
The Spurs finished 13-of-27 from beyond the arc and had the lead
from midway through the second quarter.
"They knocked down a bunch of 3s on us," Bryant said. "We can
learn from this game in terms of how they execute and how they
space the floor."
The Lakers entered as the league's second-highest scoring team,
averaging better than 108 points. The Spurs and their
league-leading defense had been holding opponents to just about 88.
"They're a defensive team first," Bryant said. "That's what
they hang their hats on. That's what wins championships."
Bryant heard plenty of boos from the crowd in the first half. He
first stole the ball from Duncan following an inbounds pass in the
opening quarter and took it to the basket for a tomahawk dunk to
make it 11-9 Lakers, then blocked Duncan's layup attempt midway
through the second quarter.
But it was Parker's 16 points and the Spurs' six 3-pointers in
the first half that gave them a 54-38 lead at the break. Parker's
jumper with 5:14 left in the second gave the Spurs the lead for
Parker had 10 points in the first quarter as he slashed his way
to the hoop for reverse layups and hit jumpers as the Spurs went up
Matt Bonner added 10 points in the half for San Antonio,
including two 3s, and was the only other player for either team to
score in double digits.
"Once you get out of kilter, they just kept breaking us down
and putting the ball in shooters' hands," said Lakers coach Phil
And the reigning champion Spurs had plenty of those.
Bonner finished with 15 points and Michael Finley contributed
10. Duncan finished just 2-of-13 and had five points.
The Spurs went up 73-53 with 3:23 left in the third when Bowen
hit two free throws.
Ginobili also got involved in the 3-point barrage, hitting two
in the third quarter, which the Spurs ended with a 79-62 lead.
Bonner's third 3 of the game with 11:28 to go in the fourth
quarter let the Spurs regain an 18-point cushion.
Bryant, who only reached double digits early in the fourth
quarter and scored 10 points in the period, soon brought the Lakers
within 14 points with 10:15 to play.
"The way they played us defensively took away a lot of passing
angles that we normally make," Bryant said. "It forced us to try
and kind of lob the ball over the top and make skip passes that we
usually don't have to do."
The Spurs kept a comfortable lead, as Bowen hit three more 3s in
the quarter before finally taking the bench as the crowd gave him a
The Lakers got within 11 points with 1:47 to go in the fourth.
Odom was back for his second straight game after sitting
out the beginning of the season following shoulder surgery last
spring. Odom jammed a finger on his right hand during the game and
was wearing a splint post-game. ... Usual starting C Kwame Brown
was back after suffering bursitis in his right heel, but played
limited minutes Tuesday. ... Ginobili continued his impressive play
off the bench this season, making a basket as he was fouled and
fell to the floor. When he got up Bryant gave him a few pats on the
head. ... The Lakers take on the Houston Rockets on Wednesday for
the second game of their swing through Texas. ... The Lakers
outrebounded the Spurs 50-40, and the Spurs had 29 assists to the
Lakers' 15. ... The Lakers won two of three against the Spurs in