SAN ANTONIO – A hard-fought loss against a longtime rival did little to brighten the mood of one of the more tumultuous seasons in the storied history of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tony Parker scored 24 points as the San Antonio Spurs handed the slumping Lakers their fifth straight loss with a 108-105 victory Wednesday night.
Manu Ginobili added 19 points and Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson 14 each for San Antonio (28-10), which has won 11 straight at home. Splitter also had a career-high 14 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant had 27 points, Metta World Peace 23 and Earl Clark 22 for Los Angeles (15-20). Bryant was 10-for-24 from the field, missing a 3-pointer on his final shot that would have tied the game. Clark missed a follow-up 3 off a long rebound.
What can the Lakers take from such a battle?
“We lost five in a row,” Bryant said. “It’s pretty self-explanatory.”
Coming off a 125-112 loss at Houston on Tuesday, the Lakers fought until the final buzzer.
Bryant’s 3-pointer pulled Los Angeles within 105-99 with 3:32 left. The 3 led to dueling cries of support between a large contingent of Lakers fans seated near the Los Angeles bench and Spurs fans.
Did the effort give Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni reason to smile?
“No, not really,” he said. “I’m proud of their effort. They fought. They fought last night against Houston. You can see the team getting some traction, but we’re a long ways away from a smile.”
Antawn Jamison’s layup pulled the Lakers within 105-102 following a timeout, but World Peace missed a layup and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions.
Ginobili hit a 3-pointer that gave the Spurs a six-point lead, but Clark responded with a 3 to make the score 108-105, setting up Bryant’s final attempt.
The Spurs missed five shots and had four turnovers in the final five minutes, turning a 10-point lead into a nail-biting finish for the sell-out crowd.
“We kind of stopped,” Ginobili said. “We need rhythm this year. We are getting used to playing faster, and we just didn’t do it. We were playing one-on-one instead of doing what we do best, and that’s to penetrate, kick and pass the ball.”
Even with Lakers big men Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill out with injuries, the Spurs managed only a 48-40 rebounding advantage. Los Angeles forced 19 turnovers to keep the game close throughout.