Los Angeles Lakers 99, San Antonio Spurs 83: One half of basketball that spoke volumes

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AT&T CENTER — There was one sequence during the San Antonio Spurs’ 99-83 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, that gave a glimpse of what had been going on the entire afternoon.

George Hill had the ball at the top of the 3-point arc and dribbled off a pick. He planted off his right foot and attacked the basket. Several Lakers defenders clogged the lane to prevent Hill from getting to the basket, so Hill fired off a pass from his chest to a cutting Spur.

I’ve seen that pass maybe a hundred times this season and not once did I see it get smothered in arms as thoroughly as it was on Sunday afternoon. The Spurs spent the majority of the day fighting out from under and endless blanket, looking for a breath of fresh air, but Los Angeles provided none.

The storyline in this one is the Laker’s length being too much for the Spurs to overcome. It’s too obvious an advantage for LA to be downplayed. When a pass was fired out to a 3-point shooter like Richard Jefferson, there was a Laker arm in his face, followed closely by a leg to run San Antonio off the line and force them into a long 2-pointer.

When Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili got into the lane, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were there with wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube man-like arms to bother any shot that went up. The Lakers were first to touch every rebound, corral every loose ball and meet every pass.

Los Angeles’ length allows them to have a foot in or near the lane to prevent driving lanes, and recover to 3-point shooters faster than most teams. The width of an NBA court doesn’t grow to account for the Lakers coming to town, instead it appears to shrink as the Spurs struggle to find high percentage shots.

“They just clogged it inside, they did a good job of challenging shots,” Tim Duncan said after the game. “They give you a little space and challenge you at the end.”

The Spurs seemed to run into a buzz saw similar to the one used against the Miami Heat in the first quarter on Friday. San Antonio’s 34-13 deficit after one quarter on Sunday was frighteningly reminiscent to the 36-12 advantage the Spurs enjoyed against Miami.

The Lakers out-shot the Spurs 60% to 27.3% and dominated the boards 17-8. Frankly, it set the tone for the entire afternoon and put the Spurs in a all-but-unclimbable hole.

“First half, we couldn’t stop them,” Manu Ginobili said. “They were great and we couldn’t make one, so that was an easy win for them”

Sunday’s game shines a bright light on a glaring hole for the Spurs. The Lakers’ length is tough to beat. I don’t want to get all sky-is-falling on you, but the Spurs have trouble on the boards against some teams, and when those same teams can close out on San Antonio’s 3-point shooters? Well, it’s not good.

The Spurs face the prospect of a second round matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, possibly boasting a starting frontcourt of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, knees and elbows galore. Following that could be a Western Conference Finals series against the Lakers or Dallas Mavericks.

While the Mavs and Thunder might not show the same aptitude for chasing the Spurs 3-point shooters, it’s becoming readily apparent that the Spurs fatal flaw this season may be the game of inches.

  • jechalker74

    @Titletown99030507

    What I was saying is that Blair is a hustle player. He is the type of player that gives the Spurs some enthusiasm and opportunities with his physical abilities.

    Now on to Splitter… He has height. Do we really think that he holds his own down in the blocks in comparison with Blair? Personally I don’t think so.

    Judging by his teammates (and as you pointed out) their lack of looks into him as an offensive option. To me that screams volumes because this team is about finding the open man and taking (a majority) of easier shots.

    In my opinion if Splitter had all of Blair’s time we’d be fighting for a 4th or 5th spot in the west. Splitter will be solid but at the moment isn’t the greatest fit.

    I think in the playoffs Pop may use him as a wild card in a series much like Fabricio Oberto. But I don’t see him being a big role player.

    It’s not that I don’t like him but I think Blair is more valuable in this team and would be a better option especially against the Lakers.

  • Spursgermany

    splitter on bynum or odom or gasol
    manu or hill chasing kobe
    parker vs fischer
    TD on the other big
    RJ on Artest
    what is the matter? Lakers phil jacskon, ESPN, TNT;ABC, NBC , Barkley and co and Bandwago did have more to loose than us!!!
    Sometimes its just dfificult not to loose, lets us beat grizzlies portland and the mavs!!
    Somehow the west 2nd Round showdown might be:
    SPURS vs OKC
    MAVS vs LAKERS

    So let us mark our territory by beating the MaVS who would surely this year kick THEM out!!(My hope and my wish).

    God Bless You Spurs

  • Titletown99030507d

    @ribanez1, Exactly what I have been saying since the 10th game of the season when he was good to go after his summer injury. I have always and will continue to be a Splitter supporter and I believe his time is right now. This is the defining moment for Pop to make that adjustment or its sayonara for this team this season to make it all the way. If he neglects the opportunity to run with Splitter now then our Spurs are going to have to depend on a very high shooting % against theseteams in the playoffs. Let’s hope they’re shooting well in the playoffs anyway.

  • Colin

    Can’t wait for a new article

  • Colin

    TD=BE

    “a few Google searches will tell you what a championship team looks like”

    I’m done.

  • bong p.

    The sky is falling, falling, falling, falling… but not on the Spurs. Ease up, gentlemen, there’s a game tomorrow (at least that is how we view it here in the Philippines) and I wouldn’t want to be in Detroit’s shoes.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @jechalker74, Dude your are wrong on all your points. What have you been watching all season?
    Blair’s field goal % is deceiving. All those under the rim shots + the put backs he happens to miss a lot Splitter could easily match or better that if it was him on the court. Splitter is now honing his hook shot skills with the few minutes of time he gets on the floor. Splitter in the 2nd game of the Laker series did to Bynum in 5 minutes of play what Blair couldn’t do all game. And lastly he is better than Oberto right now! This is a total screw up on the Pops part part in regards to Blair. We came out of the gate with Blair playing crappy teams early in the season and were fortunate enough to get a good lead on everybody. That’s what contributed to this record. Things have changed now the realism of what were facing in the playoffs is evident at this point. The Lakers are out of their early season funk, some teams got better in trades to address their interior defense issues. But we stood still and refused to hone Splitters skills and instead harked on our record that every Spurs fan was touting. Now that the season is coming down to the nitty gritty some of the same Spurs who touted that record and did not wante to adjustments for the sake of fine tuning this team are starting to ask questions about how we going to compete with the better teams and their better bigs now? Which is starting to become a reality now that the season is in its final stretch. I said it before and I’ll keep saying it they have a better chance with Splitter than Blair against big teams like that in the playoffs. I am only talking about match ups not every series. But the way it looks as these teams have adjusted for that also. Except us. Yikes. Another thing the reason Blair gets early fouls in just about every game when were playing a bigger front court is because he can’t cover or defend against the big he’s up against. But he’s full of energy. So what! They see over him and shoot and guess what? They score on him. There’s less of a chance the same big will be able to do that against Splitter. And Splitter will get his rebounds, his blocks, his assists and his points when it warrants. You think Blair can pick and roll this guy did it for living for many many years and they even gave him an award for that but no one seems to care. He’s figured the system out already and can do a fine job at the pick and roll. The way he cuts loose to the rim after a pick its a shame so one else gives him the go on the move. What the hell they’re waiting for I don’t know. He’s done it a few times to perfection that even the opposition had to break down their coverage to either cover him or the 3 point guy in the corner waiting to drain the 3. In those cases he either got his dunk or layup or kicked out to the 3 point shooter and got the results that they wanted. They should just go with him plain and simple. I’m tired of explaining. You’ll figure what I’m saying in the playoffs if they go with him. GSG!

  • Bruno

    @jechalker74
    “In my opinion if Splitter had all of Blair’s time we’d be fighting for a 4th or 5th spot in the west. Splitter will be solid but at the moment isn’t the greatest fit.”

    OMG, so give the MVP not to Ginobili or Parker and yes to Dejuan Blair. We are in game #63, and Blair played 10-12 good games, what joke…

  • TD = Best EVER

    This is the longest running article yet I believe…… Thanks to all those who kept it going for so long…….
    Post number 205

  • Nima K.

    People, it’s lose, not loose.

    Btw, What a shame Marcus Cousin went to Utah.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Tim in Surrey (“200 posts”), Colin (“new article”), bong p. (‘chicken little’s line’)—

    Had this shellacking been against almost any other of the 28 teams in the association- in a SEGABABA-on a weeknight- with just local/regional tv coverage-
    it generates 40-50 posts.

    But a home game following a day off (following a resounding win), with a national tv audience tuning in mid-Sunday afternoon—with a 22-game francise home win streak on the line (last loss @ ATT Center- the day after Thanksgiving) – against you know who-
    the last 3 days @ 48moh was going to be this.
    And I refer back to Alix Babaie’s comments on the number of people in attendance wearing the other team’s colors: most of them are not out-of-towners. Many Spurs fans probably had to put up with some (hopefully good-natured) ribbing; many of them had to vent.
    63 in the books. Let’s make #64 win #52.

  • Bob

    @Titletown99030507d

    Got to agree with your comments. I remember in ’07 west conf. finals Oberto scoring several layups by moving well without the ball. I see Splitter showing the same ability to move without the ball. Unfortunately most of the guys who can find him start.

    Also Splitter can either finish inside with a hook or draw a foul. Blair tends to allow height to bother him when’s he’s trying to finish inside and doesn’t draw a foul.

    Splitter just by standing vertical with hands up provides a great contest for shots. Blair seldom does since he’s usually reaching or fouling. And even if he does most people shoot right over him. Splitter has very good defensive fundamentals and with experience he’ll gain the nuances of NBA play.

    Finally Popovich realizes he has to get Splitter playing time in the remaining games and has said as much. It’s just about making it happen.

    “He needs more time to make significant impact on our team. If there’s an opportunity to do that, I’ll certainly do that because he’s someone who we want to have available and ready to play for us as we move on.” –Popovich

    I think the easiest way to do that would be to start him. If it’s not working out just bring Blair of the bench. It may not seem fair but the fact that a guy is going to be important later on is enough justification.

  • ribanez1

    To: Titletown99030507d

    Last note on this subject !

    I believe that early in the season Pop was trying to rest Splitter because he had played so much in Europe and during the summer games. The concern being that he may suffer a serious setback a la Manu. Fortunately, the team played well enough that his presence wasn’t necessary until Sunday. In my layperson’s opinion Splitter has to play more minutes now and if his body doesn’t hold up well then it wasn’t meant to be.

  • jechalker74

    @Titletown99030507

    Obviously you see a version of Splitter I don’t see. Wait I have seen that version… it was his highlights from Spain.

    He is not ready for a significant role on the team. Apparently I am not the only person that thinks that either.

    As you pointed out his teammates don’t give him looks and Pop is reluctant to give him much time. Why would that be?

    Good call on the FG% too.

    Blair 50.1%
    Splitter 50.4%

    How about you look at efficiency ratings.

    Blair 12.8
    Splitter 5.3

    So he shoots a fraction of a percent higher but is more than half as a efficient. Did I mention a lot of his minutes come in garbage time?

    @Bruno
    I am not saying that Blair is an MVP for the team. However, if you some stats you may see my point.

    He is a role player. He does not dominate game but he does have an impact. I think that his ability to create turnovers, grab rebounds and be a moving piece on offense makes the team what it is.

    Blair gives opponents something to try and limit and takeaway. Being the 5, 6 or 7th option on offense isn’t the issue.

    It is the second chance opportunities that he creates with offensive boards it is steals that he gets against the big men in the blocks.

    That is something that fuels the team. Not Splitter’s hook shot.

  • leonardo’s Alamo

    ive sat quietly this whole season refraining from my daily posts @ 48minofhell & spurstalk because i saw myself get furious at the beginning of the season with tiagos lack of PT.

    i used to go by “zack in the alamo” @ the start of the season i was arguing with almost everyone about splitter and people laughed at me and acted like i was a fool i was shocked that no one realized/ignored our hole in the middle! spurs fans are usually honest with themselves and our team, anyhow so i went into isolation for my own mental health hahaha

    this whole season has been great, however each game i waited for pop to play tiago splitter a little more than the last game, which didnt come for some time, until matt got hurt and tiago played a few seconds more lol then after that nasty fall…i knew that was pops get out of jail card to take him out for the season.

    im not from brazil ive lived downtown/kingwilliam/san antonio my whole life and the spurs are as serious as religion here in s.a
    while pop is a genius when it comes to coaching he also should be questioned and this is why the splitter situation makes absolutely no sense anyway you look at it.

    no one seems to remember this is the guy pop’s been drooling over for 3-4yrs not to mention the whole front office!! s.a fans somehow forgot this, tiago did not want to come to san antonio and be the last guy on the bench behind a guy like matt bonner i know that for a fact. he came over thinking he would be able to get into the rotation with hardwork .we are so lucky manu is there to guide tiago and luckily has really befriended tiago & is probably the reason tiago is still with our team no joke. i mean even blowouts theres no p.t for splitter its almost to test his character

    when i knew he was actually coming to S.A i watched about every full game hes played available online some (playoff games).

    tiago reminds me of manu ginobili but 7ft and just as fearless as manu you can say more physical. i saw him play against gary neals team and even gary neal said “tiago is amazing” and that hes been beat by him all too often.

    once he gets comfortable with the spurs on the floor you will see what this kid can do he just does all the little things to make his team win, thats why you see him getting hurt here because he hasnt learned to play in this league, but HE NEEDS MINUTES PERIOD and theres no reason/argument/benefit to give him the minutes hes had this season. i mean no one talks about him in interviews and seems to be kept a secret it just makes no sense UNLESS………

    pop makes a fool out of me and eat crow for the preaching ive done. WHAT IF ….POP BEGINS TO PLAY TIAGO EITHER IN THE PLAYOFFS OR THIS LAST STRETCH OF COURSE OFF THE BENCH BUT AT TIMES WITH DUNCAN AND THROW EVERYONES GAME PLAN (post season) AGAINST US COMPLETELY OFF…….that would make total sense if pop kept him as an ace

    i know its wishful thinking as pop has no history of such moves. im just baffled at pop not even coaching tiago this season, he has to know that phil jackson isnt a fool and will no doubt display our defensive holes under a microscope in the playoffs.

    hes not going to let pop play small ball and get away with it so my Question to u guys is: how do you think pop will react to such situation???i just hope pop accepts his delusional small ball defense isnt working ,swallows his pride & Calls tiago out to defend the paint.

    if not i hope duncan/dice/blair can make up for NO DEFENSE BONNER OH LETS NOT FORGET HIS PERCENTAGE WHEN THE GAME ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING (i think matts avrg
    (51% 3pt) shot is a recipe for “choke” disaster if were down in a place like L.A and they lean on bonner to shoot us out of a defecit)

    tiago is more of an important variable than people realize. and you guys better pray tiago plays more seeing we didnt even get any big man insurance by trade deadline..thun..thun…thunnnnn