April 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) moves the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers small forward Matt Barnes (9) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Tony Parker sliced and diced the Lakers defense for 29 points and 13 assists as the Spurs hand the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers their worst defeat of the season. With the win, the Spurs move a half game ahead of the Thunder for first place in the Western Conference while the third place Lakers lead over the Clippers shrinks to a half game.
They say that turnabout is fair play. Just six days after getting blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Alamo City, the San Antonio Spurs returned the favor with a 112-91 drubbing of the Lakers in L.A. Last Wednesday, the Lakers thoroughly dominated the rebounding battle to the tune of a 60-33 advantage on the boards on their way to a 98-84 victory. Tuesday night, however, the Spurs held their own against the much bigger Lakers on the glass, 37-37, and Tony Parker sliced and diced the Lakers defense on the way to 29 points as the Spurs shot close to 60 percent from the field as a team.
The Lakers were playing their sixth consecutive game without Kobe Bryant and his sore shin. While they had won four in a row before this one, they've also now been beaten by 20 twice without him. So suffice it to say that they'd like to get him back.
Kobe might not have made a difference in this game. Parker was almost unstoppable as he continually used high screens to get enough of an edge to make the Lakers defense pay. If they tried to fight over the top, he'd turn the corner for a layup. If they went under the screen, he was deadly from the mid range. If they switched, he'd isolate the big and simply go around him. Parker made 14-20 from the field and also handed out 13 assists in one of his best games of the season.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio defense was swarming all over Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. In last week's game, Bynum destroyed the Spurs inside. He's still too big for Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter to handle, and he led the Lakers with 21 points. But the Spurs did a great job of keeping him off the glass and also of limiting his touches in the post by overplaying the passing lanes. Bynum had only seven rebounds after grabbing a career and NBA season high 30 last week. During the crucial stretch of the second period when San Antonio scored 18 straight points to take control of a previously close game, the Lakers at one point turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions -- most of those while trying to force the ball into Bynum against an active and driven Spurs defense. Gasol finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
Helping out Parker on offense, Tim Duncan had 19 points and even turned back the clock at one point for a dive down the lane and a big dunk. Manu Ginobili had 15 off the bench.
The Lakers and Spurs meet one last time this season Friday in San Antonio in what will be their third meeting in ten days; presumably Bryant will be back for that game. After one blowout for each team, it's anybody's guess what is going to happen in the last one. What we do know is that it will have a big impact in the standings, one way or the other.
With the win, the Spurs take a half game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the Western Conference. They lead the Thunder by a game in the loss column. The Lakers meanwhile are now tied with the Clippers in the loss column for third place in the conference, though they do still have one more win than the upstarts from across the hall, and they also hold the crucial head-to-head tie-breaker.
For all of Tuesday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.