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Last Look Lakers

By Jeff Koch on November 13, 2012.

Funny how one made shot can change your outlook on the whole night.

With about 10 seconds remaining in a rather ugly game, Danny Green buried a 3 (in Kobe’s face, I might add) out of a time-out to give the Spurs the 2-point edge they would eventually win by. On the other end, Leonard played tight denial defense on Kobe, blowing up the Lakers’ final play and forcing a contested 3-pointer from Pau that missed the mark.

The prior 47 minutes of game time were alternately unremarkable and somewhat unbearable to watch.

Something about playing the Lakers brings out the worst in these Spurs. More than anything, they just seem so tentative, abandoning the smooth flow they normally play with. I’d almost call it intimidated. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili all seem to have their own physical and mental hurdles playing this team. It’s hard to watch. Duncan in particular just never seems the same. It’s not big secret that the thing that bothers Duncan the most is length, and for the last few years, the twin pairing of Bynum and Gasol has caused him absolute fits. As surprising as this might sound, I think Howard in place of Bynum actually makes Duncan a bit more comfortable. I’ll be curious to see how he fares in the following match-ups against this team.

In the end, though, this was the last look of whatever permutation you’d like to call this team. D’Antoni takes over for the next game, and the Lakers will evolve yet again. I’m completely fascinated to see what this team morphs into. Nash and D’Antoni are a perfect pairing of coach/system and PG. But will the rest of the pieces match? Howard and Gasol seem to be good pieces, but the rest of the wing players strike me as too old, too slow, too poor of shooters, or some combination of all 3. In particular, how Kobe fits into this system will be fascinating to watch.

And will surely be covered ad nauseum in the coming months.

The most interesting thing to come out of this game from the Spurs’ perspective is the paring of Splitter and Duncan in the starting line-up. Splitter has served almost exclusively as Duncan’s back-up, and has been mostly productive in that limited role. But if Splitter is ever to make any sort of leap in the league, he’ll need to learn to play alongside Duncan. Considering that gives us our best defensive back court–particularly against the Lakers and the Thunder, the two most likely opponents in the playoffs–it’ll be a season-long breaking-in period. The early results are good; Splitter, in particular, played a solid game.

The Spurs finished the 4-game road trip 3-1 despite playing mostly sloppy and inconsistent basketball. That’s a good thing. There’s plenty of room for growth, yet we’re still getting the wins. It’s still early in the season, but the Spurs have already seemed to establish themselves at the top of the Western Conference yet again.

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