Los Angeles Lakers 99, San Antonio Spurs 83: One half of basketball that spoke volumes
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,”Â Tim Duncan said after the game.Â “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 frighteninglyÂ reminiscentÂ 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.