Get the 7th seed, they said. You’ll have a better chance at defeating the Spurs, they said. Well, not today.
Looking at the game’s stats, the Lakers could have won this game. Both teams’ shooting percentage (neither one impressive) was even at the half, and the Lakers shot better in the final two quarters. They outscored the Spurs in the paint, had a foursome of double-digit scorers and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol finished with another set of double-doubles to add to their collections. But as has been their demise all season, they punched a one-way ticket to their demise with 18 turnovers.
The Spurs led by as much as 16 points late in the game, and at that point, it was too late for the Lakers to recover. In a 97-79 loss, the Lakers are down 0-1 to start the series.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol – The two combined for 36 points on 15-28 from the field and 31 rebounds. Howard did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 14 of his 20 points. Gasol did most of his work in the second half, scoring 10 of his 16. Unfortunately, they were responsible for 10 of the team’s 18 turnovers.
Tim Duncan – With all the flash, flair and power of young forwards in the game, Duncan is often overlooked because his game isn’t exciting enough. But he’s not nicknamed the “Big Fundamental” for no reason. Duncan’s game, similar to players of his generation (Kobe Bryant, for example) are still privy to the basics of the game, which is why their skill level and abilities this late in their careers is still so sound. Duncan went 6-9 for his 13 first-half points, helping the Spurs get to an early lead going into the break. Save for Manu Ginobli and Cory Joseph who each shot 50% from the field, everyone else in a Spurs uniform was having a poor shooting game.
Bench – 10 points on 2-8 from the field – that’s all the Laker reserves contributed to this game. San Antonio’s bench produced 40 points, led by Ginobli’s 18. The Spurs have a dependable, and most importantly, consistent bench. Antawn Jamison has produced numerous strings of solid games this season, but when he has a bad game, he really has a bad game. Jodie Meeks is no more than a streaky shooter. When he gets going from downtown, he can’t stopped. He went just 1-4 today, and in his last three games, he is just 3-15 from three.
Ball Movement – Gasol led with six assists, but for the whole game, the Lakers could muster up just 15 dimes (of 30 made field goals). 10 of those were from the first half, which means they handed out just five assist for the final two quarters. Steve Nash and Steve Blake had only three apiece.
Turnovers – 18 Laker turnovers led to 14 Spurs points.
Offense – It wasn’t pretty for either team. Since Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the Golden State game (where the Lakers shot 51.5% from the field), the Lakers’ shooting percentage has dropped. Before the win against the Warriors, the Laker shot an impressive 58.9% and got a victory. After Golden State, however, the Lakers have gone 36.5% (vs. the Spurs) and 36.7% (vs. the Rockets). In the last two games, Dwight Howard stated that defense was their key to victory. Today, however, the Spurs shot just 37.6% for the game and the Lakers still couldn’t get the win.
This series wasn’t meant to be a cake walk. Had the Lakers shot better, had they avoided making so many mistakes, this game might’ve had a different outcome. They’ll get another chance (actually three more chances) to figure it out.