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End-of-Half Momentum Rears Its Ugly Head

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Certainly for the Laker haters, it does (hello, Celtics Nation!).

A regulation NBA game is 48 minutes long, and we love to give added importance to the final 12 minutes.  Deservedly so.  But every now and then, we witness a contest that reminds us just how easy it is to blow a game by going into neutral while the opposition keeps driving, if only for a minute or two.  If that minute or two comes at the wrong time and allows for the momentum to change drastically, the snoozers often end up in big trouble.

Sadly for Spurs boosters, last night featured exactly one such game.

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The Los Angeles Lakers took a 2-0 lead over the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals last night, and it was in the final 1:54 of the first half that this game was won.

The Spurs tied the game at 37 with just outside of two minutes to play, and TNT analyst Doug Collins noted at the time that they were fortunate to be there, that it felt like the Lakers had outplayed the Spurs by a double-digit margin.

In a sudden rush, save for one point, that's exactly what happened for the final two minutes of the half.

It isn't just that the Lakers ran off nine straight points in what seemed like a blink of an eye to take a 46-37 lead to intermission.  It was the way it all happened.   The Lakers were firing on all cylinders, and the Spurs were clearly already in the locker room for all intents and purposes.

It started innocently enough with a beautiful feed from Kobe Bryant to Pau Gasol for a lay-in.  But it got ugly from there.

Tony Parker missed a lay-up.  Sloppy.

The next trip down the floor, the Spurs couldn't get the look they wanted, and the possession culminated with Tony Parker heaving up a trey from the corner and barely drawing iron if at all.

Fabricio Oberto had his lay-up blocked.

Tim Duncan missed two free throws.

Yep, four trips down the floor for the Spurs resulted in two bits of sloppiness (the missed lay-up and missed free throws) and two excellent defensive possessions by the Lakers.

Meanwhile, the Spurs had no chance on the other end, the defensive end, their supposed strong end.

Supersub Sasha Vujacic (whom I've promised Daily Babble devotee The Walker Wiggle that I'll write about soon) tore apart the Spurs from the outside on consecutive possessions.  A respected three-point shooter, he first up-faked his defender and took a one-dribble pull-up just inside the line for an easy deuce.  Doug Collins called it an "escape dribble."  I'll call it simply a heady play.  Counts for the same two points all the same.  Vujacic followed that up by banging a three from a step to the right of the top of the circles.  No close-out from San Antonio.

Finally, it was Lamar Odom who blocked the Oberto lay-up and threw the outlet pass to Derek Fisher, who cruised the length of the floor for a virtually uncontested lay-up.  Nice for the Lakers to see the two starters who combined to shoot 4-for-21 in Game 1 hook up to put the exclamation point on the end of the first half run.

It all looked, in a word, easy.

It wasn't just a 9-0 run to close a half for the Lakers.  It was as dominant a 9-0 run as one could imagine.  It was the run that got the crowd fired up and said, "Come on back out of the locker room in 15 minutes.  We dare you," to the opposition.

The Spurs did come back out.  But they might as well not have.

Lakers 101, Spurs 71.

How two minutes can change a game.