That Was Not Fun
I think Sean Elliott summed it up fairly well at the end of the game. In brief, he said that the Spurs respected the Lakers too much, started the game way too tentative, and got in their own way on offense. All game I was watching and wondering where the Spurs offense had disappeared to. This wasn’t the team I’ve been watching all season. And, as Sean alluded to, it wasn’t just the Lakers playing solid defense (though they certainly did); it was like the Spurs didn’t want to challenge the Lakers, like they were content to play the game the Lakers wanted to play. I don’t remember a single memorable pass or offensive possession, and that’s pretty uncommon this season.
There are several things to worry about for a potential Lakers-Spurs playoff series:
–30-33. As in, Andrew Bynum’s rebounds vs. the entire Spurs team’s rebounds. Watching the rebounding “battle” was almost comical. Most people expect the Lakers to outrebound the Spurs, but the edge has to remain respectable for the game to be close.
–No Kobe Bryant. Yup, they whooped us without their best player on the floor.
–Spurs amazingly poor offensive execution against the team. It’s hard to know if this was a fluke, lack of effort, or just a bad match-up for the Spurs. Only more games will tell.
–Size. The Lakers have two very big, very good players. The Spurs have trouble matching up against that.
There were also several things that did seem a bit fluky that would be tough to reproduce on a regular basis in a potential series:
–Tony Parker’s worst game of the season, possibly of his career. Some of this was the defense, but most of it was just a bad game and some missed shots that he normally makes.
–The entire team’s missed shots. In many ways, it was just an off shooting night for the entire team, save for the last 4 minutes when the scrubs made the game look respectable.
–Metta World Peace. Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to play that well every game. Or perhaps ever again.
–Laker’s 3-point shooting. They shot just a hair under 50% for the game. For the season, they are one of the worst teams in the league. Tonight they were just hot.
What adjustments might need to be made? For starters, we have to impose our will on the game, especially on the offensive end. I know they have tremendous length inside, but we can’t change our offense out of deference to them. If they block 14 shots, so be it. Keep attacking the rim, keep moving the ball, playing unselfishly, and creating the open lanes and shots that our offense does with ease when executed correctly.
Also, we’ll have to address the size issue defensively. DeJuan Blair is just overmatched against their starters. He can provide a nice spark off the bench, perhaps against Josh McRoberts. But Splitter will need to play a bunch more, probably in conjunction with Duncan. Diaw can provide some nice minutes as a big body banging against Gasol or Bynum (Diaw actually plays surprisingly good one-on-one defense). And, surprisingly, Bonner is quite effective, as he pulls Gasol (who usually guards him) out of the paint on the offensive end, freeing up the lanes. Or, if Gasol doesn’t follow, freeing up Bonner for wide-open 3s.
And finally, we just have to play unafraid. The Spurs just looked a bit intimidated tonight, which is totally out of character for the team.
The next time these two teams meet in 6 days, will be the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back for the Spurs, all on the road, so there’s a good chance that the Spurs will not play at full strength. So we might not get any sharper focus on these issues until the last time these teams meet, on April 20th.
With the Lakers in control for the 3-seed in the West, suddenly that 1-seed doesn’t look so bad, does it? The Lakers showed tonight that they are still going to be a tough out in the playoffs. OKC lost tonight, keeping them even with the Spurs in the loss column, so that top seed is still very much in play for the team.
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