The Lakers have had chances – two in fact – to beat the Spurs in San Antonio. Their problem is, when they start a run, get close or move ahead, their focus is displaced, as if it was on loan for only so many possessions. Uber disciplined teams like the San Antonio Spurs eat up these momentary lapses and blow it up in their opponent’s faces. One minute, the Lakers have overcome an eight-point lead late in the second quarter; and the next minute they’re suddenly down by eight again going into halftime.
Dwight Howard encountered foul trouble, giving his teammates the opportunity to do some heavy lifting on the defensive end, but they could do little to stop the home team from going off. Tony Parker was a blur, Tim Duncan was Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli was opportunistic and the Lakers? They couldn’t sustain their fight, nor their senses, and as a result are now 0-2 in the series with this 102-91 loss.
Dwight Howard – It would have been nice had Howard grabbed more rebounds. He had nine in 34 minutes of playing time. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and a steal, which isn’t a stat line to scoff at. Defensively, he was solid and he went 7-12 so he got a good amount of touches. The five fouls and five turnovers he collected, however, certainly didn’t help.
Steve Blake – Probably the most consistent Laker in the last few weeks, Blake has been a revelation. Tonight he put in 16 points, including 3-7 from downtown, collected six rebounds and has been an intense competitor in this series. He’s been charged with the difficult task of manning Tony Parker, and other than Howard, seems to be the most determined on the team. Blake has also shown a lot of passion in his play. Towards the end of the second quarter, he committed consecutive turnovers which fueled the Spurs’ run and, frustrated with himself, returned to the bench during a timeout and kicked one of the chairs. If only the rest of the team were this accountable of their own mistakes on the court.
Steve Nash – Nine points and six assists do not a victory make, but Nash is to be commended for the pain with which he is choosing to play. Of the tough-minded, old school ilk from where Kobe hails, Nash’s attitude seems to be, if he can move, he can play, and that’s what he did tonight.
Pau Gasol – 13 points on 5-14 from the field, nine rebounds, four assists, one block and zero turnovers – Aside form the less than stellar shooting percentage, Gasol’s stat line is relatively solid. He appeared, however, reluctant on the court, settling for jumpers rather than driving into the lane and giving the Spurs’ defense something to do. And that is where it’s hard to glean a positive from such negative play. Gasol’s advantage is a lefty hook shot from the block, not a jumper from the top of the key. What happened to the player who managed back-to-back triple doubles? With Kobe Bryant at home, Howard sitting on the bench from foul trouble, and Matt Bonner on the court nowhere near resembling defensive player of the year qualities, Gasol had chances to put his skills on display to carry the team, but held back.
Metta World Peace – 13 points on 5-13 from the field, five rebounds, a pair of assists, one steal and a block – Another solid stat line, especially since it’s been a while since MWP had double-digit scoring, but his decision-making when the ball is in his hands is questionable at best. If he’s not going directly to the rim for a dunk or a layup, or isn’t lights out from behind the arc, the ball shouldn’t be in his hands for more than three seconds…if that.
Ball Movement – 18 assists on 37 made field goals and 13 turnovers. The ratios aren’t exactly stunning. There was too much dribbling and not enough passing and playmaking. Too many times did the ball travel around half the court, only to be handed over for a shot with little time left on the shot clock. Attempts were rushed and shooting percentages plummeted. It’s the mathematics and science of basketball and the Lakers need another remedial reminder course on it.
Injuries – It’s reported that Nash is scheduled for another epidural on Thursday, Jodie Meeks will undergo an MRI on his ankle on Friday, and the latest injury – Blake will receive an ultrasound on his right hamstring. The only area where the Lakers have had any consistency this season are their in-game visits to the locker room after a sudden injury on the court.
Up next are two games at Staples Center where the Lakers will try to even the series. Hopefully the home crowd can provide some energy for this team because, as a whole, they’re not exuding much, and they need every ounce to stand a chance against the Spurs.