In Game 1 of the 2013 NBA playoffs series between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, depth proved to be the deciding factor. The Spurs fought their way to a 91-79 victory, thus securing a 1-0 series lead.
As the game showed, the Lakers have no answer for the Spurs' impressive depth.
The Spurs received a powerful performance from their Big Three, as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 53 points. Duncan tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds, Parker picked up 18 and eight assists and Ginobili came up with 18 off of the bench.
Despite shooting 37.6 percent as a team, the Spurs capitalized on those performances and received the necessary contributions elsewhere to make a difference. The key to it all was defense.
The Lakers received a dominant performance from their star interior players, as Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard combined for 36 points and 31 rebounds. D-12 finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, while Gasol tallied 16 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.
Unfortunately, the Spurs held the Lakers to a total of 79 points on 41.1 percent shooting—a sign of their defensive prowess.
All About Defense
The Los Angeles Lakers have a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard and the 2004 award winner in Metta World Peace. They also possess quality defensive players in Pau Gasol and Steve Blake.
What L.A. lacks, however, is what San Antonio now possesses—athleticism.
Kawhi Leonard has become one of the most promising small forwards in the NBA, pairing dazzling athletic ability with exceptional rebounding prowess. Leonard put those gifts on display in Game 1, tallying 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. At 6'7" with a 7'3" wingspan, he has the perfect blend of size and athleticism to slow down L.A.'s perimeter scoring.
Joining Leonard is shooting guard Danny Green, who has become one of the better on-ball defenders in the NBA. With active feet and disruptive hands, Green has done everything possible to contribute defensively.
In Game 1 against the Lakers, he teamed with Leonard to prove how deep San Antonio's perimeter defense has become—and we haven't even touched upon Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
A Measure of Offensive Depth
The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have comparable star power. Dwight Howard matches up well with Tim Duncan, Steve Nash helps to counter Tony Parker and Pau Gasol provides a similar dynamic to Manu Ginobili despite the difference in position.
When it comes to a battle of depth, however, there is no comparison.
For starters, the Spurs have six players averaging double-figure scoring, while reserve guard Gary Neal rests at 9.5 points per game. Eight active members of the Spurs shot at least 35.0 percent from three-point range, and four topped 40.0 percent.
For the Lakers, five players scored in double-figures in 2012-13, and their leading scorer, Kobe Bryant, is sidelined by injury—the key to it all.
The Kobe Factor
When comparing the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, there are less differences than one might presume. Both possess elite big men, each are led by All-Star point guards and both have elite scorers at the 2.
Excuse me, had elite scorers at shooting guard.
Manu Ginobili stepped up under the bright lights of the postseason once again, dropping 18 points while coming off of the bench. That includes three three-point field goals, three assists and two steals for the Argentinian marksman.
With Kobe Bryant sidelined by a torn Achilles tendon, L.A. had no counter.
That will continue to be the story of this series, as the Lakers bestow the burden of perimeter scoring upon their role players. While players such as Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks are capable scorers, putting pressure on them to match Ginobili's production is unrealistic.
Ginobili is a three-time NBA champion with 137 games of postseason experience and an average of 16.2 points per game. Blake and Meeks have combined for 55 games and 9.4 points in the playoffs.
Need we say more?