The Spurs controlled the pace early on, pushing the tempo and catching the Lakers back on their heels in transition. Duncan went 4-of-5 for eight points in the first quarter, knocking down some mid-range jumpers and using his craftiness on both ends of the floor. San Antonio took a 24-15 lead after one, as the speed of the Spurs clearly bothered Los Angeles throughout the first 12 minutes.
The Lakers hit only seven of their 20 first-period shot attempts, with most of the field-goal tries coming on jump shots. They were unable to get to the basket, with even Dwight Howard settling for jumpers instead of using his bulk to take advantage down low.
Things didn't start out much better for L.A. in the second quarter, as the Spurs continued to impose their will and Jodie Meeks sprained his ankle. With Kobe Bryant already out and Steve Nash playing banged up, the last thing the Lakers needed was yet another injury to their backcourt. While it wasn't a severe sprain, it would obviously hinder Meeks the rest of the way.
The Lakers responded, however, going on an 8-0 run to cut into what was a 12-point San Antonio lead. Nash was incredibly aggressive, looking for his own shot off pick-and-rolls and doing whatever he could to grab control of the game. Unfortunately for Nash, it's not 2010; it's 2013, and he just does not have the quickness (nor the health, for that matter) to do that for 48 minutes anymore.
After the spurt by Los Angeles, the Spurs regained their composure just like you would expect a Gregg Popovich-coached team to do, outscoring L.A. 17-13 for the rest of the half to take a 45-37 lead into the locker room.
Duncan went into halftime with 13 points to lead San Antonio, while Howard led all scorers with 14. Pau Gasol had a monster first half all around, recording six points, 10 rebounds and six assists, including two great alley-oop lobs to Howard for slams.
Both the Lakers and Spurs shot 42 percent after the first 24 minutes, but the difference was turnovers. Los Angeles had 12 through the first two quarters. San Antonio? Four.
What was bothersome about L.A. being down eight at the half, however, was the fact that Steve Blake did an incredible job on Tony Parker, holding him to 3-of-12 shooting and stripping him a couple of times in the lane. If you would have told me Dwight, Gasol and Parker would have the kind of first halves they did, I would have thought the score would be a little closer.
The third period was more of the same. The Spurs scored the first four points of the quarter to jump out to a 12-point lead, but the Lakers did a phenomenal job of hanging in there for a while. Blake continued to play great basketball, including an ankle-breaking behind-the-back move which resulted in a jumper over Parker.
Howard got into foul trouble, though, picking up his fourth foul with about three minutes to go. His fourth personal was rather inexcusable, as he essentially put Duncan in a headlock while battling for post position.
As soon as Dwight went to the bench, San Antonio pounced. Manu Ginobili began to percolate, scoring eight straight points for the Spurs, with two threes during that spurt. The second trifecta came right as the third quarter ended to put San Antonio up 13, their largest lead of the game. Through three quarters, Ginobili had 18 points in just 16 minutes of action.
You could just sense that the Lakers were on the ropes at this point, as Howard did not register a single point in the third and Gasol was held in check. Strangely enough, L.A. was actually out-shooting San Antonio 40.4 percent to 39.7 percent, but the fact that the Spurs had attempted eight more free throws and had eight fewer turnovers at this point represented the difference.
The Lakers kept fighting in the fourth quarter, but the lack of consistent perimeter offense was absolutely debilitating. As well as Blake was playing, he is not someone you can rely on to get you buckets regularly down the stretch, and as assertive as Nash was, he was just not hitting his shots. He had numerous open looks throughout that he missed—looks that are normally automatic for the sharpshooter when he is right.
Danny Green and Matt Bonner hit dagger triples from the corner with four minutes to go, putting San Antonio up 84-68 and squelching any chance of a Lakers comeback.
San Antonio's defense was able to double down on Dwight in the post without fear of him kicking it back out and getting hurt on the perimeter. With Bryant out, the Lakers offense is really quite stagnant.
Despite only shooting 37.6 percent from the floor, the Spurs were able to hold Los Angeles to a 41.1 percent clip. This was the type of performance you'd normally see out of the Spurs from the late '90s and early 2000s.
Key player: Tim Duncan
Duncan is the master of postseason basketball. Playing in his 191st career playoff game, Duncan was outstanding on both ends. He did an incredible job on Dwight whenever he defended him and outsmarted whoever attempted to cover him on the offensive end. Duncan also forced Gasol into some difficult shots in the post.
The future Hall of Famer set the tone early, scoring those eight points in the first quarter and displaying great leadership throughout. The ABC crew showed a clip of him counseling Matt Bonner at one point, and that image simply epitomized the type of teammate Duncan is.
The big man scored 17 points off 6-of-15 shooting, pulled down 10 rebounds and came up with three steals, establishing himself as the anchor on the floor from the get-go. Duncan also connected on five of his six free-throw attempts, an area where he had struggled mightily for a large portion of his career before shooting a career-high 81.7 percent from the stripe this past season.
Aaron (DukeofBexar) from the blog Pounding The Rock commented on Howard's tendency to shoot jumpers early on:
Kobe had some advice for Gasol in the first half, echoing what Jeff Van Gundy had said around the same time:
Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald did not like Popovich's use of the Hack-a-Dwight at the end of the first half, and I didn't either, especially considering that Howard hit both:
L.A.'s defense did a heck of a job on Parker early, and Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register concurred:
Despite some great rebounding and passing, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times noted that Pau was not shooting the ball particularly well through the first half. Neither was Metta World Peace, who didn't score until the 7:41 mark of the third:
Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA with what seems like a good idea:
Paul Garcia of ProjectSpurs discusses how Ginobili always manages to step his game up in the postseason:
Mike Monroe commented on how the three-ball was a major difference in this ball game. I have a feeling this is going to be the case throughout the series:
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN LA said there are some positives to take away from L.A.'s performance. Not sure if any of these things will actually happen, though:
Garcia notes how great the Spurs defense was, and it was certainly the key. San Antonio is known for their offense nowadays, but they can definitely still defend.
The Spurs did what many expected them to do in Game 1: win in rather convincing fashion. It's obvious that the Lakers are going to need heroic efforts from Howard and Gasol to have any chance in this series, as the absence of Kobe just puts that much more of an onus on the L.A. frontcourt to dominate. The lack of offense from the backcourt just killed the Lakers in the series opener.
The thing is, Howard had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Gasol had 16 and 16. However, Los Angeles still lost by double digits and failed to reach 80 points. Not a good sign.