With Kobe Bryant reduced to a Twitter-based assistant coach's role, it's about getting back to the basics for Mike D'Antoni's squad, even if that means shredding D'Antoni's playbook before Wednesday night's tip.
The AT&T Center in San Antonio hasn't been a welcoming venue all season, as the Spurs' victory on Sunday ran their home record to 36-6 on the year. But Gregg Popovich's club has also been one of the best road teams (23-18), meaning the friendly confines of the Staples Center aren't housing any guaranteed wins when this series shifts to L.A. on Friday night.
When: Wednesday, April 24, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: San Antonio's AT&T Center
Series Record: 1-0 Spurs
Game 1 Story Line
Considering the Mamba-less Lakers were also playing without key reserve Jordan Hill (ruled out for the series after Jan. hip surgery, according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times), it came as little surprise that L.A. fell short in the numbers game. Getting key contributions from players like Manu Ginobili (18 points) and Matt Bonner (10), the Spurs held a massive 40-10 edge in bench points.
D'Antoni was forced to lean harder on his starters than he would have liked; both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol topped the 41-minute mark, leaving the fresher Spurs racing out to a 17-2 advantage in fast-break points. Considering San Antonio shot just 37.6 percent from the field, compared to L.A.'s 41.1 percent mark, the Spurs needed all of the freebies they could get.
Series Star So Far
Just a week ago, hoops heads abound questioned what, if anything, the Spurs could expect out of Ginobili. He missed nine of the Spurs' final 10 games of the season with a hamstring injury and looked extremely limited in the regular-season finale, playing less than 12 minutes and connecting on just one of his four field-goal attempts.
In Game 1, not only did he show no signs of rust, he might have looked better than he had all season. He tied Tony Parker for the team high with 18 points, shooting 6-of-13 from the field (and 3-of-5 from deep) in an ultra efficient 19 minutes of work. He also poured in 10 points in the final four-and-half minutes of the third quarter as the Spurs stretched their lead from four points to 13.
Projected Starting Lineups
Los Angeles Lakers
Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter
Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant (Achilles) out, Jordan Hill (hip) out, Jodie Meeks (ankle) questionable
San Antonio Spurs
Boris Diaw (back) out
San Antonio Spurs 103, Los Angeles Lakers 94
If Ginobili and Parker are at or near 100 percent, and they certainly looked close to it in Game 1, the Lakers simply don't have enough healthy bodies to keep pace with the up-tempo Spurs.
Nash looked rusty in the first game, which was to be expected considering he missed each of L.A.'s final eight games of the regular season dealing with back and hamstring injuries. Although he tied Gasol for the second-most points on the team with 16, he shot just 6-of-15 from the field and struggled to stay in front of the speedy Parker.
Is Game 2 a must-win for the Lakers?
But there was one statistic that should offer Lakers fans a glimmer of hope from his first April outing. Nash was one of just two Lakers starters, along with World Peace, to post a positive number in the +/- rating: a plus-two in his 29-plus minutes. In other words, even a hobbled Steve Nash may be the Lakers' best option for the point position.
Game 1 saw the Spurs far from their best. Parker and Duncan shot a combined 14-of-36, and it's hard to envision seeing a repeat performance in Game 2 given this duo's track record. It was also an awfully quiet night on the scoreboard for Leonard (eight points), Green (six) and Splitter (two).
Popovich can take some comfort in the fact that his regulars have yet to show their best hand. D'Antoni, meanwhile, may not even recognize the peak performance of his new regulars.