LOS ANGELES--This was a tough one.
Not for the Los Angeles Lakers to lose. For anybody to watch.
The Lakers and San Antonio appeared to be throwing boulders at the baskets. A run in this game meant two consecutive baskets.
Mercifully it ended, San Antonio outlasting the Lakers, 91-85, as both teams played without their injured franchise player Friday at Staples Center.
They hadn't met without Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the lineup since November 1996, which made Friday's game a thing of ugly.
The Lakers shot 37 percent, the Spurs a slightly better 40 percent while being a tad more efficient down the stretch.
Where to begin?
Probably with the Lakers' troubles down low beyond Pau Gasol (20 points, 11 rebounds).
Starting power forward Shawne Williams had another ineffective game (three points) and Chris Kaman didn't do much better (four points). Jordan Hill didn't even play until the fourth quarter, finishing with a fairly spirited five points and four rebounds.
And really, the Lakers' starting backcourt was also bailing water.
Steve Blake made two of 12 shots and Steve Nash didn't play in the fourth quarter, finishing with five points on one-for-eight shooting.
The Lakers (1-2) had a 33-18 lead, but that didn't last long.
Tony Parker's jumper broke an 80-80 tie and Boris Diaw's three-pointer after that essentially broke the Lakers' will.
"It was a frustrating night," said Nash, benched in the fourth quarter because of ineffectiveness, not injury. "We didn't make shots. Such a winnable game."
The Spurs were the ones who put an end to the Dwight Howard era in Los Angeles, sweeping the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Neither team looked like a playoff contender Friday, though the Spurs eventually will get there.
The pregame chatter was more about the injured Duncan (bruised chest) and Bryant (Achilles' tendon).
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is hardly known for his kind prose, but he couldn't help but mention Duncan's and Bryant's importance to the game of basketball.
"Their competitiveness, their mental toughness, their willingness to be consistent leaders and competitors night after night," he said. "And that's what the great players do. They do it night after night after night. There's a lot of people that have good nights. But people like those two guys understand it's their responsibility to do it night after night."
Nobody will remember Friday night's mess.
Par for the game: The Spurs' Danny Green missed an easy fastbreak layup attempt in the third quarter after the ball appeared to slip out of his hand, but then Xavier Henry immediately missed an open layup after his crossover dribble erased Aron Baynes.
At least Henry had an excuse. The game was stopped for several minutes in the second quarter when he was fouled on a drive and sustained a cut on his forehead.
He stayed in the game after a timeout, made two free throws, and jogged back to the locker room, where he needed nine stitches. He returned and finished with three points, missing all six of his shots.
That kind of a night for the Lakers. They hope it doesn't turn into that kind of a season.
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