Lakers Vs. Spurs: San Antonio Wins 97-82, Marking L.A.'s Third Straight Double-Digit Defeat

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VIDEO: Kobe Bryant Attempts To Put George Hill In His Place

Kobe Bryant has had a rough week, with his L.A. Lakers losing three straight games by blow-out margins, including the Christmas Day laugher against the heir apparent Miami Heat. Tuesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs was similarly a long, tough slog for Kobe, who shot just 9-27 on the night and also had five turnovers.

As the Lakers crumbled, frustrations ran high for the emotional Bryant. It all boiled over in the second quarter with the game still close as Kobe took exception to Spurs guard George Hill's tough defense.

Hill was unwilling to back down, and for good reason: he did nothing beyond the pale, at least on this possession. Kobe stuck a finger in Hill's face in an intimidation attempt, and Hill went right back at him. The Spurs have never backed down from the Lakers, so perhaps this type of unfearing reaction is rivalry-specific. But if not, prepare for other NBA players to smell the Lakers' blood in the water and come at them in overly aggressive fashion.

Hill, in fact, told the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald that Kobe's expression of anger was a sign Hill's defense was where it needed to be.

"I don't feel like I need to back down from anyone," Hill said. "If he's going to elbow me, I know I've got him where I want him."

That was Bryant's fifth technical of the season. He had 14 in all of last season. Sixteen technical fouls in a season triggers the league's rather tough suspension sequence.

For Lakers news and analysis, join Silver Screen And Roll. For Spurs news and analysis, join Pounding The Rock.

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Lakers Vs. Spurs: San Antonio Hands L.A. Third Straight Double-Digit Loss With 97-82 Win

The Los Angeles Lakers have lost three straight games by at least 10 points for the first time since 2007 as the San Antonio Spurs knocked off the two-time defending NBA champions 97-82 Tuesday night. Tony Parker led the way with 23 points for the Spurs, and second-year forward DeJuan Blair added 17 points and 15 rebounds.

Kobe Bryant shot just 8-27 from the floor for the Lakers, and stud center Pau Gasol got only eight field goal attempts in 34 minutes of action. L.A. had a horrific shooting night, with Andrew Bynum (4-4 off the bench) and Matt Barnes (3-4) putting up the only better-than-50-percent performances. As a team, the Lakers shot just 35 percent. L.A. hasn't shot worse than 36 percent from the floor since a game against the Nuggets early last season.

The Spurs were no model of offensive aptitude, with stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combining to shoot 4-19 from the floor and the team hitting just nine of 32 three-pointers. San Antonio came into the game shooting a league-best 40.8 percent from long-range. The Lakers are No. 4 in the NBA in three-point defense (33.8 percent).

But San Antonio was able to get more done throughout the game, taking big leads in the first and third quarters before pulling away in the final period.

The Spurs have now opened up a six-game lead on the Lakers in the race for home court advantage in the Western Conference. San Antonio has a league-best 27-4 record, while L.A. falls to 21-10.

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Lakers Vs. Spurs: Kobe Bryant's Motivational Skills On Display Against Old Rivals

After the Los Angeles Lakers' painful beatdown at the hands of the NBA's newly glamorous Miami Heat, Kobe Bryant was rather critical of his team's recent performance. The former MVP laced a post-game interview with expletives and serious accusations of loafing by his teammates, and promised to unleash Hell at practice on Monday.

Thankfully for the viewing masses, whether the other Lakers took Kobe's message to heart will be put on full display as the two-time defending champs visit Tim Duncan and the four-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday (8:30 PM Eastern, NBA TV).

The Spurs lost to an Eastern power last week too, falling to the new-look Magic on Thursday. But that was San Antonio's first loss in 11 games, and the Spurs still maintain the NBA's best record at a pristine 26-4. San Antonio hasn't faced many elite teams this season -- the Spurs have lost to the Mavericks, and have yet to play the Celtics or Heat; as such, a visit by the Lakers serves as a sort of test for S.A.

The fireworks figure to spark between Kobe and Spurs talisman Manu Ginobili, both among the NBA's most aggressive drivers. Manu has flourished in his starting role this season, providing a prolific scoring punch for his two compadres Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Duncan has his hands full with Pau Gasol on the docket, while Parker will be depended upon to help shore up San Antonio's abnormally poor three-point defense, especially important considering that Lakers point guards Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown are among L.A.'s most likely shooters.

The Lakers won't face another elite opponent until Jan. 17 (Mavericks), while San Antonio faces another big test -- a rematch with Dallas -- on Thursday, followed by a trip to Boston next week. If L.A. gets this win, there is some respite on the table. For the Spurs, there is no coming harbor.

Follow this StoryStream for updates on the game. Also be sure to visit SB Nation L.A., Silver Screen And Roll and Pounding The Rock.

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