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The Texas Two-Step
The Lakers go up against the best franchise of the last decade in San Antonio, win one of the most exciting and best-played games of their season last night — despite 2/5ths of the starting lineup watching from home — and what is the Lakers reward?
A plane ride in an ice storm to face the hottest (and maybe best) team in the NBA.
Welcome to the fun of the NBA in Texas these days. Not so much the ice storms, Al Gore may have warned us about those increasing in frequency but hitting one is still a bit of a fluke. However the basketball isn’t — all three NBA teams in the state (Dallas, San Antonio and Houston) are among the six best in the entire league right now. (And, ironically, maybe the sixth best player in state doesn’t even play for one of those NBA teams right now.)
Tonight the Lakers get Dallas (6:30 on TNT). Still, the Lakers should feel warm and comfortable after an impressive win last night. Maybe the best part is how they closed it out.
With the game still hanging in the balance with less than 10 seconds left -- and with the Lakers having the best go-to clutch player in all of basketball on their team -- the Lakers instead trusted the ball to third-line center Ronny Turiaf. A guy who has been in the league one year and had open-heart surgery 19 months ago. Turiaf turns and drives right at All-Defensive-Everything Tim Duncan and sinks an awkward little running bank shot over him. Game over.
My other favorite part of the game came from an unnamed Spurs benchwarmer. Watch this video at Bandwagon LA, the first highlight of the third quarter. It's a sweet move by Kobe to go right past his man then dunk right over Duncan. But that's not the best part -- watch the guy at the far left of the Spurs bench. He starts to leap out of his seat and cheer when the amazing play happens, then suddenly remembers, "Hey, I play for the team that just got embarrassed" and quickly sits back down.
Even the Laker opponents are starting to become fans.
AP photo by Eric Gay