November 30, 2005 latimes.com Lakers Can't Repeat Past
The 90-84 loss to Spurs is a far cry from glory days of Fisher in postseason, but new faces such as Vujacic, Bynum and Odom make a game of it.
By Mike Bresnahan, Times Staff Writer
SAN ANTONIO — Derek Fisher wasn't there to bail the Lakers out.
Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Fox, Karl Malone, Robert Horry were all gone, long moved on to different teams or other chapters in their lives.
But there the Lakers were, entrenched in a surprisingly close call with their one-time rivals, resorting to new ways to try to beat the San Antonio Spurs.
Sasha Vujacic was a factor. So was Andrew Bynum.
Lamar Odom played his best game of the season. There was an Aaron McKie sighting in the fourth quarter.
A funny thing happened on the way to a blowout, but the Lakers weren't smiling at the final score, a 90-84 San Antonio victory Tuesday at SBC Center.
They were done, finished, down, 25-8, as the Spurs made 12 of their first 15 shots, until Odom brought the Lakers back, and Vujacic and Bynum grew a little longer in the tooth, and the crowd actually had to fret over the final score.
But Kobe Bryant made only nine of 33 shots and missed four in the final two minutes, as Odom's 27-point, 16-rebound effort went to waste.
Bryant, bothered by Spur defensive specialist Bruce Bowen, finished with 25 points.
Even with Phil Jackson back in the fold, the Lakers fell to 0-3 in San Antonio since Fisher's dramatic shot in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. "We got them mired into our level of basketball," Jackson said. "They were playing way above us in that first quarter. We got them to play at our level and got the game competitive. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish it off."
The Laker youth movement couldn't be faulted.
Vujacic had 10 points, including a four-point play with 2:27 left that brought the Lakers within 83-79.
Bynum, in the most extensive action of his 13-game career, had six points, six rebounds and two blocked shots — one against Tony Parker, one against Tim Duncan — in 21 minutes.
The kids were more than all right, but a veteran had an off night. Bryant forced overtime Sunday against New Jersey with two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds but, two days later, he was merely forcing shots.
With ample time left on the shot clock and the Lakers down by four, Bryant drove and had a 10-foot baseline jumper blocked by Manu Ginobili with 1:51 left to play.
Then he came up short on a driving layup. Then he forced a three-point attempt that hit hard off the backboard and rattled out with 25 seconds left and the Lakers down five. Then came another rushed three-point attempt against Bowen. Jackson credited Bryant for making numerous plays to help bring the Lakers back, but he found fault with some of the final few plays, particularly when Bryant's shot was blocked by Ginobili. "That's a playmaking situation," Jackson said. "Kobe has to ride that the way he feels. He's experienced enough to know, 'Can I get this foul or do I have to pull into an area where I … set the offense up?' It didn't work that time and it was a bad choice."
Bryant has taken 33 or more shots in five of the last six games. He again repeated his desire to reduce his shot counts after Tuesday's loss. "This particular ball club right now, I have to be assertive, and if the ball doesn't go in, it gives us a good rebounding opportunity, which we were able to get tonight," he said. "Guys went to the glass even on my misses and we got some good looks off of my misses. But we'll get to a point where executionally, we'll start executing much better and I won't have to take as many shots and the game becomes easier for everybody."
Odom was at a high level, making 12 of 25 shots and hitting many of the short runners he had been missing for most of the season. "It's very important for me to have games where I'm finishing at the basket, making plays,"
he said. "But we still have to be cohesive as a unit for us to win games."