Winning a division title probably won’t move the seismograph in Los Angeles, but beating the San Antonio Spurs is always a big deal for the Lakers and it is also becoming a common occurrence.
The Spurs and Lakers are the two dominant teams of this decade, winning a combined six championships and one or the other has been involved in eight of the past nine NBA Finals. As much as the Spurs would like to think that they are on equal footing with the Lakers, the so-called rivalry has been one-sided in favor of the guys wearing purple and gold. In five playoff matchups, the Lakers are 4-1 against the Spurs, eliminating the San Antonio in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008, and was one Robert Horry shot away from going 5-0 against Tim Duncan and Co.
On Thursday night in San Antonio, the Lakers defeated the Spurs, 102-95, with relative ease. Sure, the Spurs didn’t have Manu Ginobili, but the Lakers didn’t have Andrew Bynum. The Spurs made it close at the end, even getting within 95-93 with under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But let’s not kid ourselves. The Spurs made a nice comeback, but the Lakers were in control the whole game from the opening tip. The Lakers led by as many as 18 points and the only reason the game was close was because L.A. played the night before in Houston (winning that game too).
The victory also allowed the Lakers to clinch their 20th Pacific Division title, but you will not see that banner anywhere at Staples Center because the Lakers only raise NBA championship banners – nine of them to be exact (14 if you count the Minneapolis titles).
Jeff McDonald wrote in the San Antonio Express-News:
The final buzzer had sounded, the Spurs’ hair-on-fire comeback from 18 points behind had fallen short, and Tim Duncan was looking for someone to hug.
He settled for Kobe Bryant. Then, he patted Sasha Vujacic on the rump and waved a farewell to Derek Fisher.
To the untrained eye, the aftermath of the Lakers’ 102-95 victory Thursday night at the AT&T Center looked like goodbye. If Duncan and the rest of the Spurs get their wish, it was just a see-you-soon.
“Obviously, they’re the best team in the league right now,” Duncan said. “If we do see them again (in the playoffs), hopefully we’ve learned something from this game.”
What the Spurs actually learned is that they cannot and will not defeat the Lakers in a seven-game series. Duncan can say all he wants about looking ahead, but what the Spurs should be doing is pulling for the Lakers to get knocked out early so they won’t have to face them in the Western Conference playoffs.
Whether Ginobili plays or not, the Spurs do not have the same vice-grip defense in years past. Duncan, 33, does not have enough big guys in the frontline to protect his back; Bruce Bowen is finally showing his age; and Kurt Thomas is just a part-time player.
“We hung around,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s just difficult to spot the best team in the league 18 points and then play catch-up.”
Duncan, who is 40 of 92 from the field since his return from a knee injury, labored through another off night. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds but missed 7 of 13 shots.
With 2:19 to play, the Spurs clawed to within two points on Tony Parker’s second 3-pointer of the night. Kobe Bryant responded by sticking a contested 3-pointer over rookie George Hill, who had just been dispatched into the game to guard him.
“That’s Kobe being Kobe,” Duncan said. “He made a big shot.”
That gave L.A. a 98-93 edge with 1:46 remaining. The Spurs would manage just one basket the rest of the way.
“We’re going to try to finish the season strong,” Parker told the Express News. “And hopefully we can play them again.”
For Parker’s sake, let’s hope the Lakers and Spurs don’t meet in the playoffs because it will not be close.
the lakers are up 4-2, not 4-1. san antonio swept them in 1999 on their way to title number one. shaq and kobe were on that laker team, although phil jackson was not.
In the strike shortened season of 1999, the nba tried to make up for lost revenue by cramming as many regular season games as they could in what remained of the year. Coaches that stuck with with convention of playing 7 or 8 players
found their teams exhausted by the playoffs. Coach Popovich, instead, went deep into his bench, splitting the work load across the entire team. He was
less concerned with winning every game, and more concerned about resting players and getting each player enough experience to be valuable in the
post-season. The result: the Spurs win the nba championship.
Fast-forward 10 years. Injuries have hit a veteran Spurs team. Ian Mahinimi, the 6’10″/230 lb power forward who was to be the front court youth/strength the
spurs needed has not played one game this season. Manu Ginobili has missed 25 games and should miss at least 5 more. And there have been assorted injuries to other team members (Duncan missing 4 games, Parker missing at least 5).
Rather than throw in the towel, Popovich has shrewdly given his younger players
more playing time. He has distributed game time across the bench, less concerned about the overall record and more concerned about getting his injured/older players rest and his younger/newer players experience. He has
acquired Drew Gooden, a power forward that should provide double digit points
and rebounds if he can bounce back from a nagging injury.
So what does this mean? If all goes well, by the end of the regular season in
4 weeks, the Spurs can have all their players back from injury. They will have
a collection of players that are new to the team with enough experience to be
big playmakers in the playoffs. And they will have their veteran players well
The Spurs team of today, which has done very well, will not be the same Spurs
team in 4 weeks. The Spurs will be a team that will be even better and will
use the playoffs to gain more experience, confidence and cohesion. Should they
meet the Lakers in the Western Conference championship around mid-May,
which seems like a very strong possibility, I believe the Lakers are in for a shock.
Admitedly the Lakers are clearly currently the superior team. No one is suggesting otherwise. I find it ammusing however how the author conveniently pictured it as one size rivalry this past decade. Instead of mentioning that both teams were involved in the 9 of the last 10 championships. he limited it to the last 9 championships and conveniently left out the Spurs 1999 title. Nice one . Yes the playoff record from year 2000 beyond is probably 4-1. What was conveniently left out is the Spurs playoffs wins in 98 and 99. And come to think of it the reason the Spurs and lakers never met from 2004 to 2007. was because the lakers never made it past the 1st round. You can check the regular season winning percentages and how far each team got in the playoffs in the last decade and clearly see the Spurs are obviously the more successfull team. That is the more accurate picture of how both teams have faired this past decade.
As of today the Spurs are more than happy to have the clear underdogs tags which they clearly are. Yeah let’s all talk of how great the Lakers are, that’s just how the Spurs like it. It’s funny were labelling the Lakers as “great” when this current team hasn’t won anything yet !
Interesting that you would cite the recent playoff series that the Spurs/Lakers have played and yet leave out the 99 series in which the Spurs won 4-0 over a young Kobe and Shaq. And Duncan had an off night? He was up against the twin towers all night – the Lakers jammed the lanes – and he still came up with 16 and 11, both of which are either near or over his average. If you haven’t notice, Duncan has had a great year and Parker’s play has been outstanding lately. What the Spurs lack against the Lakers is another big man – and even a healthy Ginobili can’t make up for that. So yes the Lakers are better – but not by as much as you attempt to make it. And, yes, the Lakers will win the West again – but you never know if an injury may cause them to stumble along the way. Oh, btw, most think the Spurs would have beat the Lakers in 04 if it wasn’t for the .03 shot that is impossible to make with that little time – gee, you forgot to mention that too, huh?
Thats funny, by my count ( since 1999) , the rivalry is 4 to 2 in favor of the lakers ( not 4 to 1, as you have erroneously put it)
Yes, this would include the 1999 BEAT-DOWN of 4 games to 0 in favor of san antonio………along with the 30 point bludgeoning INSIDE of staples center at the hands of San Antonio, in game six of the 2003 playoffs ( The memorys of Derek Fisher and Kobe bryant crying like punished schoolgirls holds a dear place in my heart =0) )
With one robert horry three from being 5 to 1 in the series, eh?
More like one Derek fisher, never been done, will never again be repeated completely BS .4 prayer………away from being 3 to 3 in the rivalry.( May i kindly remind you after that series , LA went on to be Slaughtered in the “five game sweep” at the hands of detroit, the SAME EXACT detroit team San Antonio beat in the finals ONE YEAR LATER)
all i can say is, there the two best teams, who have a rivalry since 2000, keep up the good work!
Is that analysis? If you look at the record since ’99 the Spurs are 2-4 in the series against the Lakers not 1-4. What about some commentary on the merits of Ginobili versus Bynum since you think they are equal. Or the recent acquisition of Gooden by the Spurs? I would like to see both teams at full strength if they meet in the playoffs and in the immortal words of Sheed: “Ball don’t lie”
I can tell you are really hoping this is all true. The first quarter of that game was one sided, but if you watched the rest of it you know the Spurs clawed back and gave the Lakers a huge scare. No one seriously believes that game proved anything because the Spurs weren’t even playing with their catalyst, Manu. I’ll take the heart and experience of the Spurs in a 7 game series against all the young-bucks on the Lakers.
you forgot to mention the 1999 western semis where the spurs swept the mighty lakers and if you want to talk about one shot effecting a playoff outcome, don’t forget to mention the 2004 western semis where mr. fisher hit that 0.4. Also you cannot say that the impact of Ginobili and Bynum injuries are the same to their teams. Ginobili is a 3-time champion who is a major part of the spurs offense, as last year was the first time Bynum made it out of the first round and in recent years when the lakers have played the spurs, bynum has either been injured or has gotten in foul trouble against duncan not really making an huge impact against the spurs. But good luck sir, hopefully when the lakers make the finals with relative ease as you say they will, and they’ll put up a better fight and not get embarressed as they were last year.
You are like the Scott Fitzgerald of blog writers. Your lack of bias is astounding.
How convenient a statement. let me rephase this statement from an un laker perspective but from a whole leaque persepective of where the Championship is all that matters in terms of accomplishment
The Spurs and Lakers are the two dominant teams of this decade, winning a combined “seven” championships and one or the other has been involved in nine of the past Ten NBA Finals. As much as the Lakers would like to think that they are on equal footing with the Spurs, the so-called rivalry has been one-sided in favor of the guys wearing Black and Silver. In their Nine finals apperances in the last 10 years, the Spurs have a clean sweep 4 out 4, while the Lakers have a 3 win and 2 loss record ! Now that’s telling the record straight from a none LA bias perspective
Have you actually watched the spurs over the years? If you have you would know that the regualar season really doesnt matter. To say that it wont even been close you are crazy lets take a look at last year yeah you guys beat us 4-1 with us having manu out and a no call for barry. This is what I hate about people that write or are fans of LA you make it seem like no one can compare and yeah you have beat us in the playoffs thoes years but somthing to remember is that in 2005,2006 and 2007 the lakers wernt good enough to make it to face the spurs. But its all good LA fan always thinks that they are the best and they hate that the spurs have been the best team in the last ten years but its alright our fans our media our players will always show respect for the lakers but you guys never will it really makes me ashamed to be from souther california how full of yourself all of you are
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Very nice Los Angeles Lakers information. I hope to be in Los Angeles for a game this spring.
Good work on your blog, I love to see the effort and I am just saying keep up the good work.
I just want to point out that I wrote “of this decade,” meaning since 2000. So, since 2000, the Lakers ARE 4-1 against the Spurs. Last time I checked, 1999 is not part of THIS decade. Besides, ’99 was a strike-shortened season so you can’t compare that title with the others.
Well, 2000 to 2009 is done and the LA Lakers are officially the team of the decade. Yes, the Lakers owned the Spurs 4 – 1 but they are also the reason the Spurs can never be legitimately called a “Dynasty” like the Three-Peat Lakers of this decade were, or the upcoming dynasty. Most years the Spurs were trying to defend their title the Lakers kicked their rear ends. And forget luck – Kobe kills the Spurs, and Fisher and Horry are legends for their clutch shooting. Please.