Updated: January 20, 2010, 10:00 AM ET
Photo by NBAE/Getty Images Tony Parker and the Spurs are rolling, topping the Lakers Tuesday for their eighth win in 10 games.

1. Spurs Still Have Work To Do

By Dave McMenamin
ESPN Los Angeles

SAN ANTONIO -- It's all coming together for Spurs forward Richard Jefferson.

Sitting in the corner of the locker room before San Antonio's 105-85 pull-away win over the Lakers on Tuesday, he talked about the places he's been, like the University of Arizona ("I hope [former Wildcats teammate] Gilbert [Arenas] starts to get it"), New Jersey ("[Lawrence] Frank had to be let go") and Milwaukee ("I feel so bad for Mike [Redd], I need to text him about his knee") before settling on where he is now.

"It's the best place in the world," Jefferson said, ranking the sleepy Texas city behind the bright lights of New York, where he lived for seven years when he played for the Nets, earning a reputation as a bit of a socialite.

"I'm done with all the other stuff. This is all about basketball for me now."

While any win against the defending NBA champion is a welcome result for a team incorporating three new starters (Jefferson, Keith Bogans and rookie DeJuan Blair) into its lineup, it's the progress of the incorporation -- and not their W-L record in January -- that matters to this Spurs bunch.

"Hopefully we're not that far," Tim Duncan said after going for 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks against Andrew Bynum, who is an inch taller, 25 pounds heavier and 11 years younger than the Big Fundamental. "Hopefully, we're starting to turn the corner. Every little win counts and hopefully this solidifies something for us."

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich wants his team ready to compete for a title come June. That's why Mr. IV (to Phil Jackson's Mr. X -- titles, that is) knew he couldn't read much into this win since his team let a 22-point third quarter lead slip down to six in the fourth against a Lakers squad that was missing Pau Gasol (strained left hamstring) for the game and without Kobe Bryant (lower back spasms) for the entire fourth quarter.

"We played well tonight," Popovich said. "They obviously were wounded. Both facts are true. We're happy to get the win."

The win gives San Antonio the third-best record in the West with the season's midpoint fast approaching, but the Spurs still only claim a 4-9 record against teams with a better-than-.500 record as of Jan. 12.

Jefferson, who had 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, said the learning curve has been so steep this season that instead of staying after practice to run or lift or get extra shots up, he often implores groups of four or five other of his teammates to stay late and practice offensive sets and defensive rotations as a team after practice.

"We have a lot of learning to do," Duncan said. "We have a lot of new guys and we're trying to get everybody on the same page. We're not a team that only has one or two plays, we got a hundred of them, so for Pop to be able to call things on the fly and be able to change things on the fly like we've done in the past, guys are going to need the extra work. That helps guys."

Jackson was asked about the new-look Spurs after the game, a team he's faced in the playoffs five out of the 10 years he's been the coach in L.A., and he doesn't see much of a difference from the San Antonio squads of the past.

"They took our kids to school out there and pulled some of their tricks that they're good at," Jackson said. "I didn't see anything new out there. It looked like the same old group."

Jefferson said he looked at this season as an "82-game learning process."

Looks like the Spurs are showing off what they've learned sooner than expected.

Dave McMenamin writes about the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com

Dimes past: Dec. 22 | 23 | 25-26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | Jan. 1-2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 8-9 | 10 | 11

2. Bryant's Body Finally Shuts Down

By Dave McMenamin
ESPN Los Angeles

SAN ANTONIO -- Kobe Bryant is becoming kind of like the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

In the movie, the knight continues to battle King Arthur despite having limb after limb lopped off by Arthur's sword. In the end, the knight is reduced to just a stump of a man writhing on the ground as Arthur traipses on by, undeterred.

Bryant's body finally shut down on him. So far this season, he staved off a fractured right index finger, a strained right elbow and a balky left knee, but lower back spasms finally brought him to the ground on Tuesday. Literally.

Twice, Spurs guard George Hill picked up Bryant at half court and caused Bryant to turn it over while falling to the floor.

With 5:49 left in the second quarter, Hill stripped Bryant and coasted to the other end for an uncontested two-handed dunk. Then, with 1:05 left in the third, Bryant was caught off guard by Hill's presence and was called for travelling trying to elude him.

In the aftermath of both instances, Bryant was left wincing on the ground.

Bryant tweaked his back landing awkwardly after a turnaround jump shot over Manu Ginobili with 3:27 left in the first quarter. He went to the locker room to receive treatment and returned to play nine minutes in the second quarter and all of the third quarter before shutting it down altogether for the fourth quarter.

"I couldn't walk," Bryant said. "I literally couldn't walk. That's the only way I don't play."

While he wasn't playing, he could only helplessly watch San Antonio close the game on a 20-6 run on a television in the training room while getting worked on by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

Bryant's back injury -- which last flared up in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals against Utah -- couldn't have come at a worse time for the Lakers.

Pau Gasol has missed five straight games with a left hamstring pull, after missing the first 11 games of the season with a strained right hamstring. Ron Artest missed five games because of a concussion, is dealing with plantar fascia in his right foot, and sprained his right index finger when he got tangled up with Hill in the second quarter. Sasha Vujacic also left Tuesday's game with a sprained right hamstring.

The good news is Gasol is targeting a Friday return against the Clippers, Luke Walton is back from a pinched nerve in his lower back (and played on Tuesday for the first since Nov. 13), and Bryant says he's "pretty sure" he'll play on Wednesday when the Lakers continue their Texas two-step back-to-back in Dallas.

"It's part of the business," Bryant said when asked if L.A. was starting to feel a bit, well, snakebit. "I won't allow my guys to even think about that or have that attitude. You got to pull your boots up and get ready to play."

Dave McMenamin writes about the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com

3. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday night's slate of games -- all in Daily Dime Live.


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