The Spurs, for as long as Greg Popovich has been coach, have looked the same every year. Barring serious injuries, they play with a steadiness that has earned them multiple championships, numerous trips through the post-season and a reputation, not of flash and excitement, but of consistency. They don’t play with a lot of nonsense and drama surrounding them so they are able to focus on a singular, collective goal – winning.
For all the trials that this season has brought, the Lakers looked the exact opposite of their first round opponents. They are deeply scarred by injuries and play with anything BUT consistence and steadiness. The best player on this team was in the locker room getting treatment for a season-ending injury, three regular rotation players sat on the bench in suits, the starting backcourt consisted of a back-up to the back-up point guard plus a D-Leaguer (MVP though, might I add), their back-up center was playing in just his second game since suffering an injury back in January, their leading rebounder (on the team and in the league) seems to have lost the desire to grab boards, their co-captain ended the regular season with back-to-back triple doubles, but since then cannot figure out how to lead this team on the court, and the coach is being blamed for all of it. The Lakers are, in a phrase, a raging hot mess, and an 0-3 position in this series doesn’t begin to tell the tale of just how much.
Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris – Since word that three more guards would be shutting down, the two young Lakers were called upon to play their hearts out, and that they certainly did. After Goudelock received his D-League MVP award before the game, he went out and scored 20 points on 8-17 from the field and added three steals to his stat line. Morris, who went from playing regularly when Nash and Blake were out to begin the season, to not playing at all, to suddenly starting, contributed 24 points on 9-15 and handed out six assists. The pair were given a task and they carried it out as best they could, which is more than can be said of the veteran teammates who are supposed to be examples for them.
Dwight Howard – Howard, for his part, put in 25 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Is it too much to ask that the league’s leading rebounder do a little more rebounding? That a three-time defensive player of the year could stop a an older player, like Tim Duncan, from going off for 26 points?
Pau Gasol – What an anti-climactic triple double – 11 points on 5-10 from the field, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. That’s all well and good, since the Lakers needed every bit of those boards and dimes, but he could have and should have been more adamant about scoring. Early in the fourth quarter, Gasol blew by Tim Duncan and the Spurs’ defense and scored on a layup. Where was that in the first three quarters when the Lakers weren’t already down by 30 points?
Turnovers – Only 13 turnovers for the Lakers, which would have been worth a whole lot more had they won the game.
Bench – 46-9, that was the Spurs’ advantage off the reserves. To be fair, all of the Laker reserves are either injured or starting, but nine points between four players who saw the floor? Chris Duhon was never depended on to score and Jordan Hill just came back from injury. Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark, however, didn’t play aggressively enough.
Defense – The Spurs shot 61% FOR THE GAME. They also outrebounded the Lakers 49-35. There isn’t much explanation needed here.
The Spurs can, and sadly will probably, end this series on Sunday. Certainly, there’s a part of every fan (and perhaps player), that would prefer for the band-aid to be torn off quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately, despite the speed with which this series has panned out, the pain can hardly be ignored, nor forgotten.