Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were on the bench before the final horn, and not because of their bad shooting nights. That’s how easy it was for the San Antonio Spurs.
On the other end, Kobe Bryant was also out of the game early. That’s how bad it’s getting for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tony Parker scored 23 points and the Spurs, backing up their NBA-best record against the defending champions, beat a still-frustrated Bryant and the reeling Lakers, 97-82, last night in San Antonio.
“It’s always great to beat the champion,’’ Ginobili said.
The Spurs improved to 27-4, and if there are any doubts about that record being inflated, they can likely put those to rest this week. Next up is Dallas, one of the only teams to beat them this season, followed by games against Oklahoma City, New York, and Boston.
The Lakers, meanwhile, can’t seem to beat anyone.
It was another humiliation for the Lakers, who lost a week ago by 19 at home to lowly Milwaukee and then were crushed by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.
Bryant had 21 points on 8-of-27 shooting last night, at one point missing 13 shots in a row.
“I’m just [mad] at myself,’’ Bryant said. “[Mad] I didn’t play well.’’
The Lakers dropped to 21-10, marking the first time since 2007 they’ve hit 10 losses this early.
Magic 110, Cavaliers 95 — Gilbert Arenas scored 22 points, fellow newcomer Jason Richardson added 20, and visiting Orlando made a season-high 19 3-pointers in crushing reeling Cleveland. Orlando won its fourth straight by breaking open a close game in the fourth quarter with leading scorer Dwight Howard on the bench because of foul trouble. The Cavaliers lost for the 14th time in 15 games and are 1-13 in December.
Heat 106, Knicks 98 — Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his season-high 40 points in the fourth quarter, LeBron James and Chris Bosh each finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and host Miami held off a late comeback to post its 15th win in its last 16 games overall.
“It took a few weeks, maybe a month, maybe a month-plus for us to feel comfortable with one another on the court,’’ James said. “But we figured that out.’’
Raptors 84, Mavericks 76 — Rookie Ed Davis scored a career-high 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as shorthanded Toronto pulled off an upset in Dallas. The Raptors were without their top scorer (Andrea Bargnani) and top rebounder (Reggie Evans) but took advantage of the injury absence of Dallas’s top scorer, Dirk Nowitzki, out because of a sore knee.
Bulls 90, Bucks 77 — Carlos Boozer had 24 points and nine rebounds and Luol Deng scored 24 points as host Chicago won for the 11th time in 13 games.
Nuggets 95, Trail Blazers 77 — In Denver, Chauncey Billups scored 18 points and the shorthanded Nuggets snapped a season-high, three-game losing streak. Denver was without forward Carmelo Anthony for a fourth consecutive game following the death of his sister.