Tony Parker scores 29, exposes Lakers’ defense


April 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) moves the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers small forward Matt Barnes (9) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

While much was said about Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol’s dominating presence down low, and rightfully so, the Lakers had two problems of their own: Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Ultimately, they couldn’t find an answer for Parker and, to a lesser extent, Ginobili. Parker’s impeccable decision making and pick-and-roll prowess were very reminiscent of the MVP caliber Parker we witnessed in February. His 29 points and 13 assists were instrumental in the Spurs’ 21 point victory over the Lakers, a victory that gave them more leeway in the race for the No. 1 seed.

The Lakers, with the loss, remained the third seed but their one game lead was whittled down to half a game. Not only did the Spurs dismantle the Lakers defense but they did so on the road, where the Lakers are a comfortable 25-7.

Although Bynum and Gasol played relatively well (37 points, 14 rebounds combined) — repeating their performance, regardless of optimism level, was pretty unrealistic — they didn’t play well enough to cover for their backcourt mates deficiencies, namely on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, Sessions poured in an unassuming 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting but, perhaps more accurately, the Lakers were outscored by 23 points in his 25:46 minutes of action. Matt Barnes had another solid game off the bench, scoring 16 of the Lakers 24 bench points. Barnes was the only Laker capable of knocking down any shot farther than 20 feet tonight.

The Spurs connected on 7-of-18 3-point attempts (38.9 percent), three of which came from Danny Green. As expected, Green admirably filled in the gaps without requiring the basketball.

April 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) moves in to the basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Spurs bench scored 45 points on 55.6 percent shooting. Ginobili — 16 points, six rebounds, four assists — led the bench and, in the process, showed why he is still more than capable of handling the shot creator role that he absolutely thrives in.

Perhaps just as importantly, Gary Neal seems to be sufficiently satisfying the backup point guard requirements. Neal, in addition to his awesome 3-point stroke and pull up jumper ability, is making better decisions in the constructs of the Spurs’ offense. He scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting and avoided committing a turnover in an efficient 13:47 minutes of action.

Boris Diaw’s box score is pretty interesting despite his peripheral stats indicating otherwise. Aside from an impressive foray to the rim, Diaw didn’t provide much, at least statistically. But his 4-2-2 line notwithstanding, the Spurs outscored the Lakers by 21 points when he was on the court. As a result, DeJuan Blair received a healthy DNP tonight. Considering Bynum’s proficiency down low against just about any big man, especially of the 6’7″ defensively underwhelming variety, Blair’s night off was probably for the best.

Blair’s DNP left a vacancy at the center position. Instead of filling the spot with Matt Bonner or Diaw, Gregg Popovich played Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter together, which is especially interesting considering his extreme reluctance to give up floor spacing for the sake of defensive fortitude.

Splitter’s five points leave much to be desired but, if anything, Bynum wasn’t able to wreak havoc with impunity. With the potential of facing either the Grizzlies or Lakers in a playoff series increasing by the second, Pop felt the need to experiment with a lineup combination that could alleviate their size deficit.

The new lineup combination didn’t seem to harm Duncan, however. He had another throwback night, scoring 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting with the requisite dunk that put me on my feet.

The Spurs will complete the third leg of a back-to-back-to-back tommorow night against the Sacramento Kings. Tip time is 9 p.m. CST.

Game notesTony Parker’s 29 points and 13 assists represents his 11th double-double of the season … His last double-double was against the Kings on Mar. 28 … Parker, alone, accounted for 27 of the Spurs’ 50 field goals … The only blemish on his night was his seven turnovers … The Lakers made all 11 of their free throws … The Lakers turned the ball over 20 times, including five consecutive turnovers in the second quarter, that allowed the Spurs to increase their lead … The Lakers’ 20 turnovers represent their fourth highest total of the year … Los Angeles assisted on 71.8 percent of their shots; San Antonio assisted on 58 percent of their shots … The Spurs shot 59.5 percent from the field, their third highest total of the year … With the loss, the Lakers drop to 4-2 without Kobe Bryant … Tim Duncan led the team with a plus-26 … The Spurs’ Big Three scored 63 points … Their were 11 lead changes and 10 ties, all of which occurred in the first half …