Game 1 of this series was lost when it was obvious that Steve Nash was unable to hit shots that he would usually knock down with his eyes closed. Game 2 was lost the moment Dwight Howard picked up his 4th personal foul with just under 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The Lakers went on to get out-rebounded and out-muscled down low in the paint by San Antonio.
Dwight Howard, in his 9th year in the league, should know by now that a.) He will be called for ticky tack fouls when trying to gain post position and b.) He is the most important player on the court and cannot miss an entire quarter when his teammates are fighting for their playoff lives.
The Lakers have shown grit and heart by staying in games and battling through numerous injuries that continue to pile up. The series is not over yet as the Lakers can defend their home court and win the next 2 games to tie the series at 2-2. This will not happen if Howard continues to commit bone headed fouls and has to sit down for long stretches of games.
The Lakers saw some nice things from playing Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, and Jordan Hill in garbage time last night as the team was able to show some resemblance of athleticism on the perimeter and even gave San Antonio a mini scare as they cut the 17 point lead down to 9 with just under 3 minutes left. We’ll see how Coach D’Antoni chooses to implement some of those guys in the next 2 games; here are the grades for last night’s L:
Steve Nash: B-
Gotta give Nash credit for playing through obvious pain, but he was virtually ineffective against the stingy San Antonio defense. Unless his hamstring can heal before Game 3, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to see Morris or Goudelock get more playing time next to Steve Blake (if he’s healthy) because of their athleticism and Nash’s mediocre offensive output.
Steve Blake: B+
Steve Blake has shown the most heart out of any Laker since Kobe’s injury and Game 2 exemplified that fact even more as he continued to hit tough shots for the Lakers. He injured his hamstring late in the game and will need an MRI to see what the damage is, but let’s be very clear about something: if Steve Blake is going to miss any of the next 2 games the Lakers can go ahead and kiss their playoff chances goodbye. Blake has been our only real effective perimeter player and if he’s unable to go then San Antonio won’t have to worry about anyone on the outside any longer.
Metta World Peace: F
I’m not sure if it’s the knee injury or if there’s just nothing left in the tank, but Kawhi Leonard, who is basically a young Ron Artest, is making Metta look like a shell of himself out on the court. Metta’s stats won’t tell the entire story, but he continues to take unnecessary shots early in the shot clock and continues to miss said shots. Usually, Metta can counter his ineffective offensive nights by hustling and harassing the opposition on defense, but he has been dominated by Kawhi Leonard in the hustle department and he has looked like an old man when trying to check Tony Parker (which is an almost impossible task anyway).
Pau Gasol: B
The only Lakers starter that did not turn the ball over and the only big man that can dominate down on the block; it’s funny, and also quite sad, that after all this time the Lakers still only manage to give Pau about 2 or 3 possessions when he is down on the block instead of Dwight Howard and almost every time that phenomena occurs Pau either scores, draws a foul, or sets up an open teammate for an easy bucket. Instead, Coach D’Antoni chooses to have Pau set screens and camp at the elbow to take jump shots or throw a lob for a Howard alley-oop. Just remember that when the Lakers were winning championships with Pau he was always down low causing havoc for the opposition, he was never taking 20 foot jumpers, because Phil Jackson knows how to set up players to succeed.
Dwight Howard: F
Throw away the stats because Dwight Howard threw himself out of this game when his team needed him most. With all the talk of wanting to be the leader and the number one offensive option, Dwight has shown us absolutely nothing in either of those two categories. What kind of leader picks up his 4th personal foul on a bone headed offensive foul out of frustration? What kind of number one offensive option has almost as many turnovers as he does field goals made? What kind of champion constantly takes himself out of crucial games and situations by making foolish decisions? None. That’s why I still believe Dwight Howard will never win a championship if he is the best player and number one offensive option on the team.
Antawn Jamison: C+
Tough to pile on Antawn when he’s obviously playing through a right wrist injury that’s going to need surgery in the offseason, but he had some rebounds slip through his grasp and committed some fouls that really deflated the Lakers when they were making a run in the second half. Other than Steve Blake he’s really been the only other player that can knock down 3’s for the Lakers.
Earl Clark: C+
It still confuses me why EC gets only 13 minutes of playing time when Metta has been so ineffective throughout the past 2 games. Clark has proven he can knock down open shots and his athleticism is much needed against a Spurs team that has athletic wing players.
Darius Morris: B-
Look for Morris to get more playing time now that the Steve’s are basically out of commission with their hamstring injuries. Morris showed he can hound Tony Parker about as well as you can while fighting through numerous screens and he can push the ball in transition to try and get some easy baskets for himself or teammates before the Spurs are set on defense.