May all practices be this bright
It was a light, airy day at the Lakers’ training facility Wednesday, with barely a hint that the San Antonio Spurs had blown into town.
Vladimir Radmanovic tried to sing “Feliz Navidad” for a reporter from a Spanish-language TV station. Trevor Ariza somehow managed to bank a shot off the 24-second clock for a TV bit with FSN analyst Norm Nixon.
Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and Luke Walton were in an entertaining mood Wednesday, poking fun at Walton’s first practice since he sprained his right ankle last week.
Jackson was in the middle of telling reporters that Walton was “slow” and “bad” at practice before yelling out, “Luke, how’d you look today?”
Responded Walton: “I was terrible.”
It might have been the jovial aura of the holiday season, or maybe the Lakers were eager for tonight’s game after playing only once since last Wednesday.
Or maybe it’s just the confidence of an improving team that is 12-8 with victories over Utah, Phoenix, Detroit and Houston, and two against Denver.
The Lakers weren’t as jubilant after a 107-92 loss Nov. 13 in San Antonio. They were in the game, and then they weren’t, an 18-2 second-quarter run pushing the Spurs to an easy 107-92 win.
Tim Duncan had only five points on two-for-13 shooting, but defense-minded forward Bruce Bowen had 23 points and made all six of his three-point attempts. The Lakers helped the Spurs by committing 15 turnovers in the first half.
“It’s a good test for us to see how much we’ve improved since the last time we played them,” Kobe Bryant said. “We just weren’t prepared in terms of our experience as a team and being able to go deeper into our offense to be able to combat what they do against us defensively. . . .
“But now we’re much better prepared and more equipped. It’s going to be a nice challenge.”
The concept of beating the Spurs (17-4) brightened somewhat after the Golden State Warriors dropped them Tuesday, 96-84. Duncan missed a third consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle and is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Tony Parker has been playing with a sprained left ankle and is also questionable.
Manu Ginobili is not injured, which is good news for the Spurs. He had scored 37 points in two consecutive games before falling to 13 points on four-for-14 shooting against Golden State.
Jackson, who once irreverently referred to Bowen as “Edward Scissorhands” because of his aggressive hands-on defense, was only slightly more complimentary toward Ginobili.
“He walks every time he takes that drive,” Jackson said. “It’s the European walk. That makes the whole difference in the world, how far they can get on that step. He’s terrific at it because he uses angles well, he’s got great speed and he changes directions well.”
Kwame Brown said he had been having trouble cutting and stopping in trying to return from a sprained left knee and ankle that had sidelined him for 11 games. He said there was no pain while running in a straight line and hoped he would return next week. . . . Despite the difficulties Walton had at practice, Jackson said he might play tonight. . . . Jackson signed his two-year contract extension Wednesday. The extension is worth about $24 million. The second year of the deal is an option year for Jackson.
vs. San Antonio, 7:30, TNT
Site -- Staples Center.
Radio -- 570; 1330.
Records -- Lakers 12-8; Spurs 17-4.
Record vs. Spurs -- 0-1.
Update -- The Spurs’ five-game winning streak ended after a 96-84 loss Tuesday at Golden State. Matt Bonner, who had 15 points against the Lakers last month, had career-highs of 25 points and 17 rebounds for the Spurs.
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