Lakers go soft in middle

Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- Not even half a dozen “0.4" shots would have saved the Lakers this time.

The feel-good story of Derek Fisher’s return to San Antonio with the Lakers might have been the high point for the visitors in a decidedly one-sided slip, trip and fall at AT&T; Center.

The Lakers were in the game and then they weren’t, victims of a second-quarter Spurs spurt that led to a breezy 107-92 San Antonio victory Tuesday night.

Lamar Odom, in his second game back from off-season shoulder surgery, sustained a torn tendon in the tip of his right pinkie finger but probably won’t miss any time, making the Lakers more concerned about a sinful 15 first-half turnovers, a series of three-point misfires and an overall raggedy defense.


Last January, the Lakers made a statement by winning in San Antonio and improving to 26-13.

On Tuesday, the only statements were made by the Spurs, underlined and in boldface.

Things weren’t as bad as when Chris Paul shredded the Lakers for 21 assists last week, but the Spurs had a field day penetrating and kicking the ball out to the three-point line, where any number of open shooters stood patiently.

Bruce Bowen, known more for his hands-on defense, had 23 points and made all six of his three-point attempts.

The Spurs were 13 for 27 from beyond the arc and logged assists on 29 of their 40 baskets.

Before making an off-color remark about the Lakers’ defense, Coach Phil Jackson summed up the night succinctly by hitting on the turnovers.

“I thought we gave our points away, basically,” he said. “We looked uncomfortable out there as a team. San Antonio had something to do with it, but some of them were unforced [turnovers]. A lot of them were unforced.”

Kobe Bryant had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists and was extremely active early on defense, helping push the Lakers to a 34-33 lead with 5 minutes 32 seconds left in the second quarter.


Then came an 18-2 Spurs run. Half over, game over.

It was a difficult game for Odom, on the court and in the locker room.

He banged his head on a locker shelf while reaching for clothes before the game and was walking around the locker room with a bag of ice on his head.

Then he got hurt in the first quarter, leaving for a few minutes before returning with his right ring and pinkie fingers taped together.


He wasn’t sure how it happened, although he probably jammed his finger on the ball or a player, trainer Gary Vitti said.

Odom finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes and was not expected to miss any playing time, but he winced in pain as Vitti put a splint on the finger afterward.

“I’ll just have to play hurt,” Odom said. “What am I going to do?”

Surprisingly, Tim Duncan was not effective at all -- five points on two-for-13 shooting and five rebounds -- but another Spurs post player, lightly regarded Matt Bonner, singed the Lakers for 15 points, including three three-pointers.


The Lakers couldn’t come close to countering from long range, making only two of 16 three-point attempts (12.5%).

Not even the historic story line worked for the Lakers.

Fisher had six points, no assists and no miracles in 23 minutes.

There were no flickers of the past, either, not even a brief flashback to Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference finals.


“No, not really,” Fisher said. “A lot’s happened since then. We’re a ways away from getting back to the level where those playoff battles that we had in years past can equal or rival [now]. In due time, I’m sure, I’ll be able to call on some of those memories.”

This being the NBA, the Lakers get another chance at redemption, quickly. They play tonight at Houston.

“We can take some lessons that we learned tonight from the Spurs and try to apply them tomorrow night against Houston,” Bryant said.




Locked down

The Lakers, who entered Tuesday night’s game at San Antonio with the second-best scoring offense in the NBA, were stymied by the Spurs’ top-ranked defense.


*--* --- Average vs. Spurs Points 108.4 92 Field-goal Pct. 49.9 43.9 3-point FG Pct. 33.3 12.5 Assists 25.2 15 Kobe Bryant’s points 30.4 18 *--*