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Lakers finally get reacquainted with their old rivals, the Spurs

Wednesday's game in San Antonio is teams' first meeting this season, the latest they've ever begun their season series. The Spurs, second in West, and Lakers, who are third, meet three times in 10 days.

April 10, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers forward Metta World Peace, right, guard San Antonio's Gary Neal during a game in 2011. The Lakers and Spurs will play one another three times over a 10-day period starting Wednesday.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace, right, guard San Antonio's Gary… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

SAN ANTONIO — Who are you guys?

Please excuse the confusion, but the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs haven't played each other all season, one last hiccup in the lockout-hacked NBA schedule.

To atone for their tardiness, the teams meet three times in 10 days, starting with Wednesday's game here. Plenty of chances to refamiliarize.

"It'll be fun to see what we can do against that team," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

Maybe not.

Kobe Bryant will sit out a third consecutive game Wednesday because of a sore left shin. The Lakers were embarrassed without him in Phoenix, 125-105, and needed a fourth-quarter rally to pull off a 93-91 victory Monday over lowly New Orleans.

He is improving daily but not enough to put the shin to work. He did not take part in practice Tuesday and was still bothered by tenosynovitis, a condition in which a tendon sheath becomes inflamed and causes pain whenever the tendon slides in or out of it.

Basically, Bryant feels pain whenever he flexes his left foot.

He has not talked to reporters since Friday, but his teammates are doing everything but filling out a giant "Get Well Soon" card.

Not far behind the Lakers (36-22) are the Clippers (34-23) and hard-charging Memphis Grizzlies (33-23), who beat Oklahoma City and Miami on the road this month.

The Lakers own tiebreakers against Memphis and the Clippers after winning their season series by 2-1 margins, but they'd rather not go to the fine print to determine who takes third in the Western Conference.

The Lakers have almost no chance of catching the second-place Spurs (40-15) in the standings with so few games remaining in the 66-game schedule.

The Spurs are rested, with Coach Gregg Popovich sticking with his mantra of sitting veteran players for entire games this season.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili skipped the Spurs' 91-84 loss Monday against Utah, which ended an 11-game winning streak and pushed them out of a first-place tie with Oklahoma City.

It was the second time the Spurs sat their top players instead of trying to extend an 11-game winning streak.

"It's pretty much a no-brainer when you look at our schedule," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News.

The schedule is marred in many ways with too many games in too few nights, but in the 36 years the Spurs and Lakers have played each other, they've never had their first meeting this late in a season. They managed two games before April in the 1999 lockout-shortened season.

The Spurs have surrounded Duncan (35 years old), Ginobili (34) and Parker (29) with a nice merger of youth and age.

Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair and Danny Green are starters or rotation players whose best years are ahead of them. The Spurs also acquired veteran forwards Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw last month.

The Spurs do pretty much everything well: They are third in the league in scoring (102 points a game), third in shooting (47.2%), second in three-point accuracy (38.5%) and sixth in assists (22.6 a game).

"They're playing real consistent," Metta World Peace said. "But that's normal."

He was stewing

Stu Lantz, longtime TV color commentator for the Lakers, couldn't believe World Peace's inbounds pass from near midcourt all the way back toward the Hornets' basket with 1.2 seconds left in Monday's game.

Matt Barnes was there as an emergency safety outlet, and he barely beat Hornets forward Jason Smith to the ball.

"That was the worst play I've ever seen in basketball," Lantz said on the Channel 9 broadcast, repeating it for effect. "Not only did they throw it inbounds dangerously, they threw it to the opposition's end! I cannot believe what I just witnessed. Are . . . you . . . kidding . . . me?"

Locked down

Rookie Andrew Goudelock hasn't been part of the regular rotation since February, disappearing at the end of the bench next to the spot Devin Ebanks used to occupy.

"Goudelock has to be a situational guy," Brown said.

The Lakers like Goudelock's scoring potential, but he needs to work on his defense against bigger guards. Goudelock, averaging 4.3 points, is generously listed at 6 feet 3.

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