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Lakers Take/Spurs Give Away Game 1

The San Antonio Spurs surely would've taken any scenario in which Kobe Bryant would score just two points in the first half and they would have a 20-point lead in the second half.

Put those two together and you can generally scratch off one in the win column for the ol' defending champions.

Tony, we can get up from this. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

But the Spurs, with all of their postseason experience, savvy and smarts, couldn't finish a game that was played at their preferred tempo. It was an uncharacteristic breakdown for a team that was 18-minutes away from stealing homecourt advantage in the Western Conference finals - until the Lakers closed out the game on an improbable 44-20 run to win 89-85.

During the run, Bryant outscored the Spurs by himself, with 23 points. Bryant's confidence in the postseason has never been questioned.

How many other rookies would shoot an airball, then go right back and shoot another?

So, should it come as a surprise that Bryant would wait until a championship team established a two-touchdown, two-field goal lead before he decided to get aggressive?

Yes. That even tests the limits of overconfidence - for everyone who isn't Kobe, I guess. Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said Bryant was doing his "trust-his-teammates thing," as he took just three shots, had five assists and didn't score until the final 90 seconds of the first half.

I'm not afraid of no stinking 20-point deficit.(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

But the passive, passing Kobe was a shock to his own coach, Phil Jackson, who joked that Bryant went on vacation in the first half, abandoning the triange offense for the "Bermuda Triangle" offense.

He still only had four points when the Spurs took a 65-45 lead with 5 minutes, 54 seconds left in the third quarter. Bryant said he never felt like his team was out of it. "I've been in games where we've been down that much and it felt like we were down 20 and coming back felt like a big hill," Bryant said. "This game didn't really feel like that."

Aut once Bryant decided to go, the Spurs decided to stop playing. Popovich summed up the devastating loss best when he said afterward, "Hurts like hell."

Lakers reserve Jordan Farmar was asked if this was the type of loss that could demoralize an opponent. "I hope so."

Tim Duncan looked like he was ready to dominate the Lakers through the first three quarters, as he scored 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting. But he made just two of his final five shots in the fourth quarter - and one of those shots he was credited for was actually tipped in by Bryant.

How bad were the Spurs in the fourth quarter? They made just 3 of 21 shots (14.3 percent) and committed five turnovers in the period. With the exception of the Bryant/Duncan tip, the Spurs missed their final 14 shots.

How on earth did we blow this one? (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Popovich said it is best that his team forgets about the game altogether, but when asked if he was concerned about how the game would affect his team mentally, Popovich said, "Well, yes. Coaches worry about everything."

Duncan tried to keep the loss in perspective, when reporters pressed him about it being a wasted opportunity that could be too much to overcome. "You have to win four games," Duncan said. "Losses are losses. We were up 20 and we hope to put them away and really put them on their heels, btu we didn't. We've got to recover and come out the next game and try to get that one."

And that's really all the Spurs need at this point - one road win to take the series, and homecourt advantage back to San Antonio.

By Michael Lee  |  May 22, 2008; 7:49 AM ET
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Kobe in 5. We should have traded Gilby for him when we had the chance.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Kobe is my favorite plaer in the NBA, and I love the series between the Lakers and Spurs...

but we do have a NBA team here. Yeah they get bounced every year, but the draft is coming up and we've yet to hear anything about the Wiz draft prospects.

Are they looking at Hibbert? CDR? Trading the pick/player? I respect all of the beat wrters at the WaPo but, and I never complain about the content of their threads, but seriously.

Posted by: Red(Content) | May 22, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Spurs clearly the better team might take them 7 after blowing that one but in the end duncan and parker will be to much. The lakers have no answer for either

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

With very poor shooting averages in the playoffs, I don't see how the Spurs can win on defense alone. Aside from the three guys who are expected to deliver points Duncan-Parker-Ginobili, who else is reliable on that team? Seems they go to sleep when one of those guys goes for some rest, while the Lakers' bench actually energizes the game.

Posted by: rgz | May 22, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The Spurs pulled a Wiz...take a huge lead into the 2nd half and blow least they have many rings.

Posted by: Burg w/ a U | May 22, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Kobe in 5. We should have traded Gilby for him when we had the chance.

Posted by: | May 22, 2008 9:31 AM

When did "we" have the chance to make this trade?

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 22, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Kobe in 5. We should have traded Gilby for him when we had the chance.

Posted by: | May 22, 2008 9:31 AM

When did "we" have the chance to make this trade?

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 22, 2008 12:13 PM

Yeah, just like we should've traded Jamison straight up for Garnett. Just like we should've traded Blatche for Gasol. And we should've traded Nick Young for Mike Bibby.

Dir da dir da dir

Posted by: Barno | May 22, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Right on Barno! I feel our offseason will be quiet as the Q

Posted by: Burg w/ a U | May 22, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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