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Lakers send message to Spurs (and anyone else watching)

Mar 6, 2011, 7:10 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili AP

Phil Jackson did not treat this like any other game.

He spent extra time in film preparation for this game, according to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave Miller (a former Hornet assistant coach).

He sent Kobe Bryant back into the fourth quarter of a blowout, when Kobe usually has ice on his knees. With 3:11 left in the game and the Lakers up 20, he sent Pau Gasol back in from the bench.

Championship teams don’t normally try to send messages in the regular season. Phil Jackson is not usually the message-sending type. But the Lakers clearly felt they needed to and did with an absolute thumping of the San Antonio Spurs, 99-83 (and it wasn’t nearly that close) on national television. After slumps that had some questioning if they were really championship material.

The message — we’re still here and if you want that Larry O’Brien trophy you are going to have to rip it out of our cold, dead hands.

The veteran Spurs heard that message but you can bet were not intimidated. If they meet the Lakers in late May — in the Western Conference Finals — you can bet they will remember Kobe and Gasol in at the end of the game. The Spurs have their motivation, their pride, too.

The actual game itself was a thrashing from the opening tip. The Lakers clearly learned a lot from a similar beat down the Spurs gave the Heat a few nights before. The Lakers defense chased the Spurs off the three-point line all game long. The Spurs were 2-11 from three in the first half.

But the real key to that was Andrew Bynum — the Lakers center controlled the paint. Every time a Spur tried to get a shot off in the lane, he altered or blocked it. Then he got the rebound. That allowed the perimeter defenders to pressure guys at the arc. Pretty soon the Spurs were reduced to what they have reduced other offenses to for so many years — the contested midrange jumper. You don’t win games with that shot.

The Lakers meanwhile played their best game of the season. They ran the offense and it was fluid. They had just two first half turnovers.

The Lakers were up 21 in the first quarter and this was the preverbal boat race. Kobe Bryant had 26 (but needed 25 shots), Pau Gasol had 21 (on 12 shots). The Lakers length was dominant, their bench was solid, every decision they made seemed to be the right one.

The Lakers looked like champions. They looked like a team that has won seven in a row.

You can bet the Spurs will be ready next time. They are champions as well, they know what it takes. But the message has been sent — the Lakers are back and ready to defend their turf.

  1. loungefly74 - Mar 6, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    good. the lakers needed this win to show the rest that they can turn it up when it counts.

  2. craigw24 - Mar 6, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    Kurt,
    Did you listen to Kobe and Phil after the game – or were you just listening to the “talking heads”?

    Phil put starters in to send a message, but the message was intended for his bench, not the San Antonio Spurs. No matter what the score, if you don’t play our system you will sit down – period.

  3. king3319 - Mar 6, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    Damn I loved watchin this game!!! I jus hope this continues through out the playoffs!!!

  4. ocgunslinger - Mar 6, 2011 at 7:55 PM

    That was a statement game and there is no question that IF the Lakers can stay healthy the Lakers will be a tough out no matter who they play. Bryant is such an intelligent player and team leader who refuses to give less than 100% and refuses to accept less than full effort from his teammates. IF anyone can beat this team in the playoffs they will certainly have earned it.

  5. aqzi - Mar 6, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    Kurt–good write up. I completely agree that Bynum was a huge factor, even if it doesn’t show much in the box score.

    I think Phil putting Kobe and Pau in towards the end was more a message to the bench than to the Spurs. Kobe said after the game in an interview that Phil was trying to “send a message to the second unit that they can’t let leads slip up.” I think Phil would have done it if the other team were the Spurs or the Timberwolves.

  6. goirishnd23 - Mar 6, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    preverbal?

  7. omniusprime - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Kobe Bryant and the Repeat World Champion Lakers sent the Spurs a message that come playoff time it’s Laker Time! The Spurs have been wound too tight during the regular season and come the playoffs they’ll unravel. Once again the Lakers prove the pundits wrong as they can flip the switch anytime they want to and when they do no team can beat them. Kobe Bryant is the greatest player in the world and the Repeat World Champion Lakers will Threepeat this June!

  8. gqrlh - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    It was for the bench, they played with no energy or effort, Phil is like this, no matter the lead you have to perform. But at the end of the day it’s all about LA. Not Miami, you will see that come Thursday night! Kobe is the best player in the NBA, he has been for the last five years hands down!

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