The San Antonio Spurs don’t have to be at their best to make this first round series a pretty easy one to get through, with an opposition that’s not really the deepest team around. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili don’t have to give it their all, while Tony Parker is healthy enough once again to shoulder the load, especially in the crucial minutes to create enough separation to get by.
Not having a bench to help Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol is too much to overcome. Manu Ginobili gave the Spurs 13 points off the bench to continue the trend of him playing better than the entire second unit for the Lakers. What’s most impressive about Ginóbili’s success off the bench is that he has done it while playing just 38 minutes in both games combined, about 30 percent of the total minutes played by the Lakers bench in that span.
What’s more important is that in his 38 minutes over the first two games, (19 in both), the Lakers have been outscored by 38 points. The Lakers are now down 2-0 in a playoff series for the 5th time in the last 7 seasons. They lost each of the previous 4 series after losing the first 2 games. Last time they came back was the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs, when the Lakers won the final 4 games of the series to win it in 6 games.
Tony Parker had a rough start to the game shooting 1-6 in the first half and finishing with 4 points. In the second half, with the memory of how he performs most of the time against Steve Nash, he transformed into the unstoppable version of himself, scoring 24 points on 8-14 from the field, finishing with 28 and 7 assists, leading the Spurs to a 102-91 victory.
Tim Duncan isn’t having the easiest time in the world against Dwight Howard, but the Lakers center keeps getting into foul trouble and has a very leaky perimeter in front of him to cover for. He did get 4 blocks and 16 points, but his 5 fouls were too much for the Lakers, who did pretty poorly with or without him. There’s not enough depth, and frankly, not enough quality to deal with the endless line of players the Spurs have to send into battle.
Duncan finished with 8-18 from the field, scoring 16 points, but the more important contribution came from Kawhi Leonard, also adding 16. He’s becoming a more and more consistent scorer, giving the Lakers a lot of trouble, as they struggle to focus on the three more known Spurs as is. Shooting 45.1% form the field and not being able to get too much from their bench, as Antawn Jamison scored only 6 points on his 20 minutes, doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the series, even if there’s a home stretch coming up.
Maybe it would have been better with Kobe Bryant, but that’s not a guarantee. There’s a reason the Spurs finished so close to the top of the West while the Lakers needed the last day of the season to know they’re in. There are no shortcuts in sports, unless you have the talent to make up for terrible team-building and mediocre coaching. The Spurs seem to have the advantage in both.