Bryant’s 25 points not enough to upset Spurs
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have watched helplessly as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has tormented them for the better part of the past two decades.
Bryant did so again in his final appearance in San Antonio, but the Spurs were able to enjoy this one.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a throwback performance by Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten at home.
“I thought it was great,” San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. “It was a great game, fans were into it. It felt a little bit like the old days in the playoffs, Spurs and the Lakers.”
Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Spurs win their 28th straight home game to open the season. The Spurs’ 37th straight home victory dating back to last season was surprisingly difficult.
Bryant had 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter, going 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in guiding the Lakers to an 81-79 lead entering the fourth.
“I watched him growing up,” said Lakers guard and San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 21 points and four assists. “I watched him kill the Spurs.”
San Antonio has trailed for only two minutes in the fourth quarter at home this season, but the Lakers led for all but 23 seconds in the opening seven minutes of the period.
Bryant finished 9 for 28 from the field, but was 7 for 18 in a dynamic second half that electrified a pro-Bryant crowd.
“It’s like watching Michael (Jordan),” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I was just watching. It was great. It was great. We made some mistakes. He took advantage of it. He’s fantastic.”
After rising to drain a 3-pointer with Leonard squarely in his face contesting the attempt, Bryant turned to an injured Tim Duncan on the bench and shrugged his shoulders.
“He was like, ‘No way,’ and I was like ‘Dude,’ ” Bryant said. “What could I do? I miss the easy ones and make some B.S. like that. I don’t even know what to tell you. It was Tim’s version of a yell, so it was a strong whisper.”
The Lakers trailed 101-99 lead after trading 3-pointers following Bryant’s improbable shot, but the Spurs’ were able to hold Los Angeles to just three points in the final 2 minutes.
“Missed defensive assignments,” said Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, who had 12 points. “They executed their offense to perfection. We were young and that’s an excuse I could give you.”
Bryant had a sore right shoulder, but he was not about to miss one last game against his fiercest rivals. He has faced the Spurs 90 times in the regular season and postseason, his most against any opponent.
Lakers: The Spurs honored Bryant with a 3-minute video. The Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all paid tribute to Bryant’s competitiveness along with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Bryant walked over to the Spurs’ bench prior to tipoff and hugged Popovich, sharing a few words with San Antonio’s longtime coach.
Spurs: San Antonio’s 12-game lead in the Southwest is the largest ever since the division was formed in 2004-2005. ... In addition to Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs were also without Matt Bonner. The reserve forward suffered a left calf strain Friday against Dallas, which was just his 20th game of the season. ... Pop star Selena Gomez sat courtside, wearing a Tony Parker jersey.
Lakers: At Indiana on Monday night.
Spurs: At Miami on Tuesday night.
RODEO ROAD TRIP
San Antonio begins its annual Rodeo Road Trip as the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo takes place in the AT&T Center. The Spurs will play eight games on the road before returning home to face the Detroit Pistons on March 2.
Duncan missed his seventh straight game with a sore right knee, but Popovich said the team’s veteran leader is nearing a return.
“He’s getting close,” Popovich said. “The question will be do we want to give him any time before the (All-Star) break or not, but he’s been going 3-on-3 and going up and down. He’s close.”
Parker expects to see Duncan back soon, or else.
“If (Popovich) doesn’t do it, I think (Duncan is) going to leave,” Parker said. “I think he can’t take it anymore now. Even if it’s five minutes, he wants to play so bad.”