Sunday night could be best described as the Spurs playing like it was a regular season game in late April, while the Lakers were playing like this was game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs continue cruising (actually more like limping) to the finish line, as they lost to the new-look Lakers, 91 to 86.
It’s obvious that the Lakers are extremely motivated after Kobe Bryant’s season ending injury, but that’s no excuse for the way the Spurs played tonight. I tried maintaining a positive attitude, even with the way the Spurs have slacked to start and end games, but that one good game-deciding run never came. Well it did, just not for the silver and black.
Duncan and Green led the Spurs offense with 23 and 16, respectively. For Los Angeles, Dwight Howard had 26 and 17, while Steve Blake stepped up in the Black Mamba’s absence with 23 points.
Who’s Hot: With Steve Blake’s performance tonight, I think it’s only right that we nickname him the Blake Mamba, am I right? I’ll take everyone’s collective groaning as a no. Blake’s 18 points in the first half set the table offensively for LA, as he had all four Lakers 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes.
Who’s Not: The Spurs point guards. Tony Parker, Cory Joseph and Nando De Colo shot a combined 3 for 20, only managing 8 points. I’m pretty sure the Spurs guards would’ve made Steve Nash look like an NBA All-Defensive first teamer tonight.
Turning Point: I kept waiting for the Spurs to have a patented 10-nothing run to kill the Lakers spirit and it never came. With the Spurs and Lakers all tied up at 61 after three quarters, Coach Pop tried to get Tony Parker going to start the 4th quarter. Sadly, Parker’s play just ended up getting worse, which earned him a nice warm spot on the bench, replaced by Cory Joseph.
Parker’s benching sparked a 10-2 run by the Lakers with 7:50 left in the game, that the Spurs couldn’t recover from. Even with Tim Duncan putting the team on his back (and putting a couple Lakers on some posters), the Spurs eventually fell short in part to some poor offensive execution down the stretch.
Up Next: The Spurs will go at it again tomorrow night, facing a potential first round foe in the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors also appear to be slumping into the postseason, losing 2 straight and 3 out of their last 4. Tip off will be at 9:30 PM CST from Oracle Arena in Oakland.
PG Tony Parker | 4 points, 1-10 shooting, 4 rebounds, 8 assists
Where do I even begin with Tony Parker? The French point guard didn’t score his first field goal of the game until there were 48 seconds left…in the 3rd quarter. His horrible shooting night, paired with Steve Blake’s sudden resurgence, equal Pop benching TP with 9 minutes left in the game and going to CoJo instead. Popovich didn’t hide his displeasure after the game either, admitting Parker was benched because he was “awful.”
SG Danny Green | 16 points, 5-11 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Green was quiet but played well tonight. He did have the occasional lapse on offense and defense, but he did a good job defending Jodie Meeks for most of the game. Normally when Green is your second highest scorer, he’s on fire, but it just so happened that he got some consistent looks throughout the game with the exception a of scoreless 2nd quarter.
SF Kawhi Leonard | 8 points, 1-5 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Leonard was pretty lackluster on offense especially in the first half, with only one field goal attempt. But Kawhi did his “damage” from the free throw line, going a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe. He also managed to keep Metta World Peace in check and had some nice moments defensively. In all, a below average game from the small forward compared to what we’ve seen him do lately.
PF Tim Duncan | 23 points, 11-22 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks
Duncan struggled some in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, but without his strong 1st quarter and his outstanding 4th, this wouldn’t have been a game at all. Tim did a great job of staying physical with Howard throughout the game and making him uncomfortable, which is all you can really do against Dwight.
C Tiago Splitter | 11 points, 5-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks
Splitter had some cringe worthy moments, but did a good job of forcing Pau Gasol into awful shots (Gasol was 3 of 17 on the night). Typical “Holy crap, Tiago” moment in the first quarter at the 5:37 mark, stealing the ball from Steve Blake and driving coast-to-coast for the dunk. I’m sure he’ll be bragging about that play for days to come.
Bench | 24 points, 10-28 shooting, 12 rebounds, 7 assists
To be fair, the horrible shooting off the bench came courtesy of Nando De Colo and Cory Joseph, who combined for 2 for 10. Matt Bonner was very active on defense and added 8 points off the bench. Gary Neal was good for about 25 of his 28 minutes of playing time off the bench, but those final 3 minutes he played in the fourth quarter handicapped the Spurs of any miracle comeback to win this game. In all, the point guards have to play better. And if De Colo or Joseph can’t produce when called upon, maybe it’s time Patty Mills gets some run. Let Aron Baynes wave the towels.