After Kobe Bryant needed 32 shot attempts to make sure his shorthanded Lakers beat the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, you just knew that some other members of the team would have to step up if L.A. was going to have a shot at taking down the Spurs in San Antonio the very next night. They did at the beginning, but some clutch play by the Spurs down the stretch was the difference as the Lakers dropped a close one in San Antonio, 112-111.
The first quarter of this game was all Pau Gasol for the Lakers. With Kobe drained from the previous night, Gasol went nuts offensively, scoring 14 of the team's 29 points to start the game. Kobe Bryant came alive and answered with 14 points of his own in the second, as both teams had no trouble scoring to send the game to a 63-61 Spurs lead at the half.
The Lakers fell down by as many as 11 points late in the fourth, before they rallied to take a 108-105 lead with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game. After a couple of inside buckets from Tim Duncan, L.A. found themselves down by a single point with under 30 seconds remaining.
Just as he did the night before however, Kobe hit a long three-pointer to put his Lakers up two with 12 seconds remaining. It was a clutch shot, and Kobe knew it: he did the Sam Cassell dance (implying a larger than average level of male courage) as he headed to the bench once the Spurs called timeout.
San Antonio wasn't finished though, as Roger Mason hit a long jumper while he was fouled by Derek Fisher, which tied the game at 111, and Mason's free throw gave the Spurs the one-point victory.
Kobe led the Lakers with 29 points and 10 assists, while hitting 11 of his 19 shots from the field. Manu Ginobili was the difference for the Spurs, and led his team with 27 points off the bench in just 30 minutes of action.
This was really one of the most hotly contested games of the season, with the top two teams in the Western Conference battling down to the wire, and the Spurs winning on basically a circus shot from Mason with 10 seconds to play. The fact that the Lakers were able to come back from 11 down in the fourth quarter -- on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, without several key role players, against the Spurs -- is something that probably won't cause them to lose too much sleep on the flight back to Los Angeles.