Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/21/12
SAN ANTONIO The look on Tim Duncan's face combined irritation and bewilderment. Was there any greater satisfaction in beating the Lakers because Kobe Bryant had played? Duncan's eyeballs widened a little and he brought the whole affair back to business. "We're just about wins," he said. Forty-six of them for the San Antonio Spurs, now. Most in the Western Conference. They beat the Lakers (40-24) 121-97 Friday in San Antonio. It was the fourth 20-point win in five nights for the Spurs (46-16) who entered Friday's game with a half-game lead over Oklahoma City for first place in the west. Bryant scored a team-high 18 points in 29 minutes in his first game back from an injury to his shin that has kept him out the last seven games. That included a blowout win at San Antonio two weeks ago, one that had the Lakers answering questions about whether or not they were just as good without Bryant as with him. They dismissed those questions in much the same way Duncan did, and the collective message seems to be that we can all just shut up about Kobe Bryant, already. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did observe that Bryant was not himself Friday night; he took just 12 shots, for one thing. But the Spurs nonetheless thought Kawhi Leonard had done a workmanlike job on him. He really wasn't much of a factor, if that's possible. "(Leonard) did as good as anybody could do," Popovich said. "Kobe's not Kobe yet. He's got some rust on him. You could see that." The big factor was easy to spot. San Antonio shot 68 percent in the first quarter, and just never stopped making shots. It was a lot of jumpers, too, several from Duncan, which was significant. He had missed a series of long jumpers in the third quarter of the Lakers last visit to San Antonio, and L.A. promptly blew open what had been a close game. Duncan played just 26 minutes, but made 10 of 15 shots for 21 points. Tony Parker, hailed with chants of "MVP" from the home crowd, went 7-for-12 for 20 points with 10 assists, Manu Ginobili also had 20 and the Spurs shot 67 percent on 3-pointers, a season-high 61 percent overall, 94 percent at the free-throw line and outrebounded the Lakers by 13. They beating was exhaustive and complete. The offense, Popovich said, had a lot to do with the Spurs' defense, but the rebounding also was a big deal, because Lakers center Andrew Bynum had collected 30 rebounds during that last visit. He had two Friday. "The first game, he humiliated us," Popovich said. "So I think the guys were pretty fired up to play better against him. The Lakers rather remarkably held a lead of three early in the second quarter, but without much production from Metta World Peace (3-for-9) or Pau Gasol (4-for-10) and a non-heroic Bryant, the Spurs picked them clean. San Antonio was quicker to the ball and lighter on its feet, and by the end of the third quarter it was over. Duncan and Bryant sat the entire fourth. With 11 minutes left, the Spurs Matt Bonner offered one of San Antonio's five missed 3s, but Tiago Splitter wrestled for one of San Antonio's 42 rebounds. He passed it out to Ginobili, who whipped a one-handed pass over the linebacker and in front of the safety to Bonner for a layup that put the Spurs up 23. The crowd gasped. Somebody cutely asked Popovich if he knew Ginobili had a pitching arm like that. "No," he said.
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