It’s good to be a Laker fan these days. A victory on Friday against MVP candidate Chris Paul and his New Orleans Hornets, coupled with a victory by Houston over Phoenix, earned the Lakers the Pacific Division crown for the first time since Shaquille O’Neal was in town. Then on Sunday in another big game, they took care of a San Antonio Spurs team playing without the leading candidate for sixth man of the year, Manu Ginobili.
A loss for the Lakers would’ve made them slip from first in the West, to third with San Antonio taking over as the number one seed. After a hard fought first half in which the game was tied at 51 apiece, though, the Lakers pounded the Spurs and earned a rather easy 106-85 win. The win solidifies a finish no worse than second place for the Lakers.
The Lakers were lead by Kobe Bryant with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, although he was able to sit comfortably on the bench in the fourth quarter with his team in such dramatic command, thanks in large part to the contributions of his teammates. Lamar Odom, who was the only Laker starter to play in the fourth quarter, notched 17 points and 14 rebounds. Pau Gasol added 14 points and 11 rebounds, Derek Fisher chipped in 14 as well, and Jordan Farmar and Ronny Ruriaf led the bench, scoring 11 and 10 respectively.
After being held to four points in the first half, Fisher scored 10 during a 17-6 run by the Lakers to start the 3rd quarter, giving them an 11 point lead. The Spurs would miss their first seven field goal attempts of the quarter and would shoot just 3-17.
Bryant would score seven points over the final 2 1/2 minutes of the quarter, highlighted by a 3-pointer at the buzzer which gave his team a 79-67 advantage heading into the 4th, where the Lakers outscored the Spurs 19-5 to start.
Tony Parker put in 18 in the first half for San Antonio, but was limited to only 2 in the second half. Tim Duncan added 16 points and 12 rebounds.Notes
: The Spurs and Lakers have combined to win six of the last eight NBA championships. … The Spurs have won 11 of the last 16 games between the teams, who split 2-2 this season. … Popovich said he’s counting on Ginobili being available when the playoffs begin, but he’s not sure about the final two regular-season games. “We’re better off to be a lower seed with a healthy Manu than a higher seed without a healthy Manu,” Popovich said. … Asked about a potential Lakers-Celtics matchup in the NBA finals, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said: “Maybe some people would roll over in their graves and reappear. It is a nostalgia thing, of course.” The Celtics have an 8-2 record when the teams have met in the finals. It hasn’t happened since 1987. … Bryant’s two young daughters, with an assist from his wife, held up a sign saying: “Daddy for MVP.” They just might get their wish.