San Antonio Spurs 84, Los Angeles Lakers 82: At least San Antonio’s last shot fell
This was not the game I expected coming in. With Mike D’Antoni in the process of joining the Lakers and San Antonio’s returning last season’s top offense, I was looking forward to a little more scoring. What we got was both good defense and missed shots, but the Spurs made the one that counted as Danny Green sank a 3-pointer with with nine seconds left to give the Spurs a 84-82 win over the Lakers at the Staples Center.
Tiago Splitter started alongside Tim Duncan for the first time this season in an effort to counter the size Los Angeles boasts with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Give Splitter credit, he played admirably for San Antonio. His impact went beyond the nine points and nine rebounds he tallied in the box score. Splitter was active on defense and on the boards; if he didn’t grab the rebound, he made his presence known.
Gregg Popovich only played Duncan and Splitter together a handful coming into Tuesday night’s game. Although, it was more frequently than we’d seen in previous seasons, possibly in an effort to get the pairing some familiarity for games like this one. The Spurs will face some large teams in the Western Conference — in addition to the Lakers, both the Clippers and Grizzlies can run out a lot more size than some Spurs lineups can handle. The more Duncan and Splitter figure out how to play together both offensively and defensively early in the season, the more flexibility Coach Pop has to adjust to different scenarios.
According to NBA.com, Duncan and Splitter played 26 minutes together against the Lakers. Those lineups had a 92.9 defensive rating (92.9 points over 100 possessions), but just a 91.3 offensive rating. This meets the eye test, as it was clear the Spurs’ spacing on offense wasn’t great with Splitter in the starting lineup. One of the perks of playing Boris Diaw with Duncan is Diaw’s ability to draw the other big man away from the basket. Diaw can knock down shots out to 3-point range and is a threat to put the ball on the floor. As weird as it is to say, Diaw must be defended all over the floor.
Splitter doesn’t have that same threat. He needs to be paid attention to when he’s out on the perimeter setting picks and in the low post, but otherwise he’s essentially a non-factor. Whenever the Spurs went to the Duncan-Parker pick-and-roll or gave it to Duncan in the low post, Splitter’s man was able to make himself a nuisance. Some of the Spurs’ best looks offensively came in the secondary break, early in the shot clock and before the Laker defense had a chance to get set up.
The Spurs actually finished the game with a negative net rating, boasting an offensive efficiency of 91.5 while allowing a defensive efficiency of 93.5. The Spurs only turned the ball over eight times, though, while the Lakers gave it up 17 times. In a game that ends in a two-point difference, nine turnovers is a Grand Canyon-sized gulf.
After a rocky start to the Spurs’ four game West Coast swing, they return home winners of three straight. They haven’t recaptured the magic we saw during last season’s 20-game winning streak, but the Spurs are slowly putting together performances that lead one to believe that that capability is still in there. How long it takes to put it all together is anyone’s guess.
Advanced box score stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats