San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 28 points in the loss, while Tony Parker led the Spurs with 19.
But it was an unlikely hero that allowed the Spurs to return to San Antonio with a 3-1 finish to their four-game road trip.
With just over nine seconds remaining, and the Spurs trailing 82-81, Kawhi Leonard found a curling Danny Green for a three-pointer from the right wing.
Lakers interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff was unable to design a play to get Kobe Bryant a touch out of the timeout. Metta World Peace inbounded to Pau Gasol in the left corner. Unable to find a passing lane to get the ball in Bryant's hands, Gasol forced an errant three-point attempt that clanged off the deep iron.
The Spurs improve their Western Conference leading record to 7-1, while the Lakers fall to 3-5.
Tony Parker, PG SAS: A-
If Parker's scouting report was thin on Morris, his play certainly didn't show it.
He poked and prodded his way into the Lakers paint consistently, finishing his drives when needed or finding open teammates.
Kobe Bryant was clearly the best player on the court. But Parker was a close second. Parker finished with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting and added seven assists (to just one turnover) and four rebounds.
Darius Morris, PG LAL: D-
There may be a temptation for some to grade Morris on a curve considering injuries to Steve Nash and Steve Blake forced Morris in to his first career NBA start.
But this was an NBA regular-season game. There was no time for a grade curve.
With Kobe Bryant often initiating the Lakers' offensive sets, Morris needed simply to knock down his shots and bother Tony Parker on the defensive end.
He didn't fare well in either area. Morris missed all five of his field-goal attempts and all but one of his four free-throw attempts.
Danny Green, SG SAS: B
Green's game-winning three-pointer was his obvious highlight of the night, but it was certainly not his only contribution.
He bothered Bryant defensively (as well as anyone can bother Bryant) and corralled a team-high three steals.
He was the Spurs' third-leading scorer with 11 points and added five rebounds. His shot wasn't blistering, but it wasn't terrible either (4-of-12, 3-of-7 from three).
Kobe Bryant, SG LAL: A-
Think Bryant was eager to step away from the off-court distractions caused by the Lakers' early-season coaching change?
The Black Mamba wasted little time in making his presence felt. After San Antonio opened the game on a 10-2 run, Bryant helped the Lakers close the quarter on a 22-8 run.
Bryant continued his hot shooting (12-of-19 from the field, 2-of-2 from three-point land), but Bickerstaff's decision to play him at the point guard position for most of the fourth quarter forced Bryant to focus less on finding his offense and more on finding opportunities for his teammates.
Bryant finished the night with 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
Kawhi Leonard, SF SAS: C
Leonard played the fewest minutes of any Spurs starter (26), but he still found ways to be productive.
Four of his seven points came in the game's final period and he did assist on that game-winning basket.
But, as expected, Leonard saved his best work for the defensive end, fighting for loose balls and forcing Bryant and World Peace to take contested jump shots.
Metta World Peace, SF LAL: C-
Either World Peace's trigger was set to automatic, or he's a staunch subscriber to the theory that good shooters can shoot themselves out of slumps.
Perhaps a product of the lack of direction under Bickerstaff (or more likely the product of some gamely Popovich decisions), World Peace attempted the second-most shots of any Laker (14).
He converted just four of those and just two of his eight three-point attempts.
The rest of his stat line was largely forgettable (four rebounds and one block in 36 minutes), although he was largely his typical pestilent self on the defensive end.
Tim Duncan, PF SAS: B+
If basketball is truly a young man's sport, no one has bothered to relay the message to the 36-year-old Duncan.
He shook off a quiet first half (six points and two rebounds in 16 minutes) to finish with an efficient (and impressive) line of 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Duncan's mid-range jumper wasn't falling early, but credit the savvy veteran for finding touches closer to the basket as the game went on.
Duncan scored four of the Spurs' final seven points, first knocking down a mid-range jumper with just under two minutes remaining than converting a running hook shot as the shot clock was expiring with less than a minute left.
Pau Gasol, PF LAL: C+
Gasol's play late nearly bumped him up a letter grade, but 10 points (on 3-of-10 shooting) in nearly 37 minutes speaks for itself.
Other than Nash, Gasol could be the player with the most to gain from new coach Mike D'Antoni's arrival. That is, if he can channel the aggression that he showed late in this game over the course of an entire game.
Gasol scored the final four points for the Lakers—first converting both free throws after an aggressive drive got him to the line, then confidently burying a mid-range jumper that gave the Lakers an 82-79 advantage with less than a minute left.
Tiago Splitter, C SAS: C+
Splitter did everything that the Spurs coaching staff asked him to do, forcing Howard and Gasol into rough shooting nights (the Lakers duo shot a combined 8-of-19).
He relentlessly pursued rebounds, particularly on the offensive end, where he pulled down a game-high six offensive boards.
His nine points, two assists and one block in 29 minutes weren't earth-shattering numbers, but he absolutely contributed to this win.
Dwight Howard, C LAL: B-
Howard's activity on the defensive end helped the Lakers control their defensive paint. But his grade dips a bit given his relative inactivity on the offensive end.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich clearly game-planned to harass Howard, but Howard is too strong to turn the ball over at such a high clip (six), most of which came on defense-help strips.
The Lakers tried to get Howard involved in the offense early and often, but he was clearly the center of San Antonio's defensive attack.
Howard's 15 rebounds helped L.A. win the rebounding battle 48-38, but the Lakers needed more than the 13 points he could muster in nearly 41 minutes.
Spurs bench: C
Despite an off night from Manu Ginobili (1-of-8, three points), San Antonio's depth still allowed them to win the battle of the reserves.
Stephen Jackson connected on two of his four three-point attempts and bothered the Lakers with his defensive physicality.
DeJuan Blair played an aggressive 12 minutes and finished with six points, two rebounds and two assists. The Spurs reserves outscored the Lakers' 20-18.
Lakers bench: C-
Excluding Morris, the Lakers starting five all logged over 36 minutes, so Bickerstaff's second unit did not have as many opportunities to make an impact.
Jordan Hill's activity on the glass (six rebounds, including three on the offensive end) helped the Lakers finish defensive possessions and keep offensive trips alive. And Chris Duhon looked to be the better L.A. point guard, finishing with five points and three assists.
Antawn Jamison continued his quiet play, but his three-pointer with a little over two minutes remaining gave the Lakers a brief 78-77 lead.