LOS ANGELES -- In other circumstances, it might have been an interesting social experiment: Who plays best without their best player?
But on Friday, it proved only a wasted opportunity for the Lakers as they squandered a 15-point lead, went scoreless for a long spell down the stretch and, overall, blew a chance to notch a win over an old Western Conference rival. Even with Tim Duncan out, the young Lakers couldn't match the savvy San Antonio Spurs.
Lacking a go-to scorer in the final minutes, the Lakers (1-2) fell, 91-85, in a game Coach Mike D'Antoni said was "set up for us."
A 3-point play by Jodie Meeks put the Lakers up, 80-77, with 3:55 left. But the offense dried up and the Spurs went on a 10-1 run before another Meeks layup cut the lead to 87-83 with 24 seconds left.
"The Spurs are a good team with or without Tim Duncan," Meeks said, "and the next guy steps up. Obviously without him we thought we had a better chance, but it didn't happen. We didn't execute as good as we should have."
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but both Meeks (14 points) and Wesley Johnson (12 points, 2 of 4 on 3-pointers) shone off the bench.
After going up 33-18 on two free throws by Xavier Henry with 7:55 left in the second quarter, the Lakers closed the quarter just 2 of 14 from the field and led just 42-41 at halftime.
"We gave up the lead in the second quarter," Gasol said. "I think that was a critical moment of the game, where we could have stepped it up a notch, increased the lead and built on it."
Henry cut his head on one play, requiring nine stitches. He returned in the third quarter and finished with 3 points and missed all six field-goal attempts.
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