Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) has the ball knocked away by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) andforward Tim Duncan (21) during 2nd quarter action of game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
With 8:26 left in the third quarter, Dwight Howard committed an offensive foul while attempting to box out Aron Baynes. Howard then proceeded to complain to the refs, dropped a couple obscenities, and earned an ejection. As Howard exited the floor, Kobe Bryant limped onto the bench with his crutches, in a last ditch effort to inspire his teammates.
That moment defined the Los Angeles Lakers season perfectly. Even if you want to call Howard’s ejection, him quitting on his team, Bryant didn’t. The entire team never fully quit, but they never had enough anyway.
And even with all of Staples Center on their feet, hoping their cheers would magically heal Kobe’s torn Achilles, the San Antonio Spurs went about their business. Parker ran toward the baseline and hoisted a wide-open 15 foot jumper, just like he would do in practice, and swished it.
That was this series. The Spurs never let themselves get overconfident or distracted. Through this entire four game series, San Antonio’s execution was surgical. The offensive rotations, moving the ball, constantly finding the open man, while also collapsing on shooters and helping out in the post on defense.
Sure facing a healthier team would’ve changed some things, but the Spurs practically played 192 minutes of flawless basketball throughout the first round. Duncan’s subpar 11 point, 6 rebound performance in Game 4 didn’t matter. Aron Baynes playing his first meaningful minutes of the entire season, in a series clinching game in the postseason, had no ill-effect. The Tracy McGrady first round curse didn’t even exist.
Tonight was about 13 guys who forced their opponents into 21 turnovers, limited the opposition to 29.4% 3-point shooting, and let their suffocating defense cause 13 steals.
And those 13 guys are now 12 games away from their ultimate goal. Go Spurs Go.
- Tonight might have been the last time we saw Dwight Howard in Lakers purple and gold. Los Angeles can offer Howard nearly $30 million more than any other team, but the chances to play elsewhere (Dallas, Houston, Atlanta to name a few) might be more attractive. If it really is Howard’s last game as a Laker, he sure picked a hell of a way to go out.
- Boris Diaw had contact practices this weekend, but didn’t play tonight. With about a week off before the 2nd round begins, he should be healthy enough in time to help bolster the Spurs bench.
- Aron Baynes started in place of Tiago Splitter tonight, in a move no one really expected Gregg Popovich to pull. And he did a fantastic job for only being in the NBA for 4 months now. He flashed a smooth jumpshot and played well around the rim on offense and defense. For someone who is basically a work in progress, you couldn’t ask for more. The best part of Baynes game is he doesn’t shy away from contact. He had no problem banging against Gasol or Howard, and that’s exactly what the Spurs need.
- Tracy McGrady finally got to shed his suit and warmups tonight, playing 5 minutes. Nothing to see here though, as he was basically going through the motions, getting a feel for the NBA game again. He missed his only field goal attempt, while adding a steal and an assist.
- DeJuan Blair has added a beautiful teardrop to his offensive game, and showcased it plenty against the Lakers. Granted Blair’s days in a Spurs uniform are severely numbered, but it’s good to see him performing well and displaying a great attitude. As one of his detractors, I wish him nothing but the best in all future endeavors.
Tweet of the Night
The 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers in less than 140 characters:
Fun fact: Lakers won as many preseason games as postseason games this season.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 29, 2013