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Lakers rattled by Spurs

This news story was published on April 21, 2012.
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By Kevin Ding, The Orange County Register –

SAN ANTONIO — The sinking stone that has been the Lakers’ defense the second half of this season cost them another big game Friday night and certainly more than a little confidence, too.

The Lakers’ 21-point loss Tuesday to the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs was their season worst until this 121-97 rout, which came despite Kobe Bryant’s return after a seven-game shin-injury layoff.

Bryant finished with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but it hardly mattered with the Spurs shooting bull’s-eyes at the other end. Tony Parker conducted the orchestra with 20 points and 10 assists, and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan (21 points) outplayed both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

“San Antonio had us rattled with their physicality a little bit,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said.

Bryant praised Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s adjustments, getting Bynum out of position at both ends in dominating the Lakers this week.

Three days ago, the Spurs shot 59.5 percent, by far the best all season against the Lakers. San Antonio wound up at 61 percent this time.

Bynum was already angry at the end of the first quarter, when San Antonio shot 68 percent, banging a chair and yelling in the Lakers huddle. He finished with a season-low two rebounds after posting 30 on this floor in the Lakers’ April 11 victory.

“They controlled the tempo the whole game,” Bynum said. “We couldn’t do nothin’ with it.”

The Lakers dropped to a half-game ahead of the Clippers, who are trying to move up to No. 3 but will need the Lakers to lose Sunday vs. Oklahoma City or Thursday at Sacramento to do so. The No. 4 seed more likely will face San Antonio than Oklahoma City in a possible second-round matchup, though the Lakers have been blown out by both teams twice each in the past two months.

Ramon Sessions on Friday night was again nothing like the player the Lakers imagined at the trade deadline could line up against Parker and Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. After this loss, Brown urged Sessions to play with more aggressiveness in the future.

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