SAN ANTONIO – One of the most amazing parts of a stunning comeback by the Spurs in Game 1 against the Warriors Monday night was that they did it without their foundational player, who was stricken by a severe intestinal illness.
“Rough night last night, getting over this sickness,” Duncan said Tuesday. “It kind of caught up to me later in the game. But probably the best thing for the team was me was going out.
“I couldn’t (play) at that point. I wanted to, but I was hurting us out there. I couldn’t move. It was the right thing to do for me to get out of there. I knew I’d have some difficulty. I just didn’t think it would be at that level.”
Duncan gutted out 34 minutes, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds before Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the command decision to remove him from the game. The Warriors upped their lead to 104-88 soon after he left with 4:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and headed to the locker room. That was precisely the time when San Antonio’s improbable rally began.
Duncan’s teammates said they were unaware that the 37-year-old was ailing through the first two quarters of the game. But Manu Ginobili said the problem became evident in the second half.
“I realized in a timeout, where his eyes were lost and he couldn’t raise his head. Pop was talking to him and he was not looking. He was staring at the floor.”
“It became pretty apparent that he wasn’t going to tell me the truth anymore, so I had to pull the plug myself,” Popovich said. “He’s a competitor and he didn’t want to come off the floor.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams in NBA playoff history had been 0-392 when trailing by 16 or more points with four minutes or less left in the game.
However, Duncan’s teammates rallied in his absence, playing flawlessly down the stretch, shooting 6-for-6 from the field and ending with Danny Green’s 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
Duncan came back onto the court for the last six seconds of the first overtime and the final second of the second overtime. He spent the rest of the time in the Spurs’ training room, suffering physically and mentally.
“It was unbelievable,” Duncan said. “I was in the locker room watching it, and I see us getting closer and closer. I debated even coming back out there. Whatever superstition it might be, I wanted to stay right where I was. It felt bad coming out there and they get a lead again.
“It was great just to see the guys and everything going the way we wanted to go. A lot of credit to Golden State; they were unbelievable. Steph Curry put on a show out there. But we stuck with it and used every minute that we had. It was just an unbelievable game to be a part of.”
The 14-time All-Star hopes to be part of all of Game 2.
“Another day and a half, I hope to have it out of my system,” he said.”
SAN ANTONIO – On the court of our dreams, they would still be out there playing. Shot for shot, pass for pass, the astonishing marvel of a relentless attack against a miracle comeback born of experience and stubbornness.
There were spin drives that swirled faster than the winds inside a funnel cloud and a clinching 3-pointer that came down wearing a touch of blue from scraping against the sky.
Bop till you drop. Last team standing advances to next round. If that were the case, they might keep on fighting this battle into July. Or even August.
This was billed as a Western Conference semifinal series that would bear watching, and for three hours and 12 minutes of Game 1 we were like cavemen mesmerized by their first glimpse of fire.
If Dr. Naismith’s game has been played better, it certainly wasn’t on this planet. The extraterrestrial Stephen Curry rang up another out of this world third quarter, hitting 9 of his 12 shots for 22 of his 44 points. The remarkably down-to-earth Danny Green matched Curry’s half-dozen from long range. And a zaftig Frenchman who hadn’t played in exactly one month — Boris Diaw – provided a certain je ne sais quoi.
“When I talk to him and Manu, he goes ‘This is what I do.’ That’s what he’s going to tell me. I stopped coaching him a long time ago.”
It was beautiful and bombastic, frantic and fragile, wild, woolly and wondrous … and certainly the best game of the season and maybe as good a playoff game as has been played in any season. It was Nureyev and Baryshnikov on the same stage, Picasso and Pollock on the same wall, Miles Davis and Leonard Bernstein making music together.
The second-seeded and ageless Spurs simply look at every game and every situation as something that can be handled, even if it’s like picking up a hot coal in their bare hands.
On one hand, the Spurs will have to devise a plan to stifle or at least slow down Curry, who has joined the Rolling Stones as the hottest act touring America this spring. They will also have to fret that if Klay Thompson hadn’t fouled out and Richard Jefferson hadn’t missed two free throws with 1:57 left, they might never have survived regulation time.
On the other, the Warriors probably have to figure that the Spurs won’t continue shooting 43.8 percent in the series and that Tim Duncan will be more of a force at both ends of the floor when he shakes off the effects of the flu that eventually forced him to the sidelines.
Jarrett Jack attacks, the Spurs answer. Curry thrusts and Parker parries.
“We’re excited about this series,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “I saw a lot of good things during the course of the game tonight.”
The good news is there could be six more left. The bad news is there can only be six.
SAN ANTONIO — Ever since they dusted off a young LeBron James and his overmatched Cavaliers with a backhanded sweep in 2007, the Spurs have been searching for a path back to The Finals.
Now, perhaps, the only thing missing is a red carpet rolled down an aisle or a trail of rose petals.
The Western Conference bracket that was supposed to a demolition derby involving a series of jarring collisions is beginning to look instead like dominoes falling just right for San Antonio.
What could have been a dangerous first-round matchup against the Lakers lost its peril the moment that Kobe Bryant collapsed with a torn Achilles tendon. Without their leader, the Lakers were toothless and clueless and simply ran out of healthy bodies to even put up a semblance of resistance, and the Spurs only had to fight boredom and try to avoid injuries.
Then while Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were sitting at home resting their veteran legs for a full week, the remainder of the West came unraveled like a cheap sweater.
So many experts around the league had picked the superstar-less Nuggets to build on their 57-win season with a team-first attack that could carry them to the conference finals or even beyond. Yet No. 3 seed Denver had its home-court dominance ended by the sharp-shooting of Stephen Curry and the Warriors.
A season-long hullaballoo and love-fest over the No. 4 seed Clippers finally winning more than 50 games and their first division title in franchise history went out the window when they were exposed as little more than a sideshow dunking act that gave little inclination to playing defense or being serious when the stakes were raised.
While those two pretenders were being exposed, even the top-seeded Thunder were taking a severe blow when their All-Star guard Russell Westbrook suffered a torn ligament in his right knee in Game 2 of their series against Houston. First it meant that OKC was extended to six games by the young and restless Rockets and then it sent them into the second round and beyond looking vulnerable and anything like the favorites to reach a return match against Miami than a month ago.
Now the Spurs go into a second-round series tonight against the Warriors and Curry, who have become the “must-see” TV-show of the playoffs and it’s likely that the top shooting ace in the game will provide a few moments of entertainment and drama and anxiety in Spurs huddles.
But it can’t be overlooked that Golden State has lost an astounding 29 consecutive games in San Antonio, a streak that goes back to Feb. 14, 1997, four months before the 37-year-old Duncan was even drafted by the Spurs. As much of a test that they’ll get from trying to guard Curry, the Spurs would much rather have it against the No. 6 seed than trying to run and keep pace with the Nuggets in the mile high thin atmosphere of Denver.
Of course, the grit-and-grind Grizzlies are still out there lurking with their powerful inside game of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and the much-improved point guard Mike Conley. But the Grizzlies already blew an opportunity to take Game 1 of their series at OKC on Sunday and trail 1-0. So the storyline couldn’t be playing out any better for the Spurs if they had written it themselves.
“We lost to an eight (Memphis, 2011) once,” Ginobili told reporters. “We won being seventh (Dallas, 2009). So anything can happen.”
Of course, the Spurs know they had won 20 straight games and took a 2-0 lead on the Thunder in the conference finals a year ago before dropping four in a row to be eliminated. Nothing is ever certain, nothing is guaranteed.
But the Spurs were looking for a route back to The Finals for the first time in six years, they couldn’t have found a clearer path.
LOS ANGELES –Gregg Popovich still maintains that as soon as Tim Duncan decides to walk away he’ll be right behind him and happily disappear into the San Antonio sunset.
The good news for Spurs fans who have grown up or grown old with the most successful coach-player duo in NBA history, now in their 16th season together, is they aren’t going anywhere soon.
“He plays like he’s six or seven or eight years younger than he is,” Popovich said. “He’s really just a miracle in my mind.”
That’s what some thought it would take just a few seasons ago for the Spurs with an aging Big Three of Duncan, 37, Tony Parker, 30, and Manu Ginobili, 35, to again be title contenders. They were swept out of the second round by Phoenix in 2010 and then unceremoniously ushered out the next season as the top seed in a first-round upset against Memphis.
Parker openly pondered the direction of the franchise at that point just as rumors persisted that he could be traded. He questioned if the team’s age and makeup could still allow it to compete in a Western Conference transitioning to younger, faster and more athletic, headed by two rising stars in Oklahoma City.
Duncan didn’t need to hear concern from Parker to know that the times were changing, and he needed to change with them.
After averaging just 12.7 points in that 2011 first-round loss, Duncan immersed himself in self-evaluation, analyzing everything from where he’s most effective on the floor, to his conditioning, to his weight and nutrition.
He said the lockout, while it hindered many players’ workout routines and stunted their seasons, actually worked in his favor: “Just having that extra time to really focus on getting my game back and getting my body in the right shape that I wanted it to be.
“I changed a lot,” Duncan said following Sunday’s completion of a first-round sweep of a frustrated Dwight Howard and the depleted Los Angeles Lakers. “I understand that my game was changing, trying to extend my game on the floor, understanding where I’m going to be getting my shots, understand that I needed to get some weight off my body so that I could take some of the pressure off my knee. And it worked well for me.”
This season Duncan produced his highest scoring average (17.8), field-goal percentage (50.2), rebounding average (9.9) and minutes (30.1) in three seasons. His 2.7 blocks per game were a career-best, as was his 81.7 percent free throw shoooting, a remarkable leap for a career 69.3-percent foul shooter.
Against L.A. he delivered an array of post moves, spins, jumpers and one mighty alley-oop jam that caught his teammates by surprise.
“I thought he was going to be done after that play,” Parker said, smiling. “His back or something like that would give out on him.”
And so here are the Spurs once again, following up on last season’s run to the West finals, a six-game loss in what always seems to be Duncan’s last, best shot at a fifth title. They’ll be well-rested and favored in the second round against either a young and energetic Golden State squad or a Denver team that will have gone the distance to dig out of a 3-1 hole.
With the top-seeded Thunder wounded, the second-seeded Spurs must now be considered the favorite to emerge from the West.
“We’re getting there,” Duncan said after averaging 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and shooting 51.7 percent from the floor against the Lakers. “Obviously this series went well for us. We didn’t end the year well, but the bottom line is it really doesn’t matter how you end the year. This is a good start for us. We like the pace we’re at now, we like the rhythm we’re at now, we like how healthy we are right now and hopefully we can stay that way.”
Only a few weeks ago Duncan and Popovich expressed concern about its own health after a loss at OKC. Old questions of age and durability were cropping up again as Ginobili sat out hurt. Parker was dealing with multiple ailments and had to be removed from that game and faced an uncertain return. Boris Diaw needed back surgery. The team surprisingly released Stephen Jackson.
Yet, there was Duncan, spry and free of physical distress, averaging more minutes this season when Popovich’s desire over the last several has been to limit him more, an All-Star again for the 14th time.
“He’s a really gifted individual as far as his mental capacity is concerned,” Popovich said. “He really has a mature outlook in the sense that he knows what it takes to play at that age. He enjoys the responsibility and takes it seriously 12 months a year and that’s why he’s able to do what he does at this point in his career. His maturity level and commitment are both very unique.”
As Duncan altered his approach the last two seasons, becoming leaner and quicker, especially evident in his defense and 9.9 rebounds a game, his best mark in three seasons, Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford went about reconstructing the team.
The stodgy defensive model complemented by a methodical offense that ran through Duncan was ditched. Young sharpshooters and scrappy, unheralded role players were acquired to form a precision-based, team-oriented and highly efficient offensive attack that surged to became one of the highest-scoring in the league.
Additions like second-year forward Kawhi Leonard helped improve a faltering defense, making San Antonio an all-around threat to run through the West and arguably the best equipped to challenge the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.
Still, the key remains the ever-present Duncan, even as the Spurs’ strategy altered emphasis on him.
In the opening minutes of Game 3, Duncan set the tone for the two games in L.A. that the Spurs would win by 52 points. A 3.2 earthquake was registered just as Duncan snared an alley-oop pass from Danny Green with his fully outstretched right arm rising well above the rim and then he emphatically dunked it.
“That makes sense now,” the self-deprecating Duncan said when told of the simultaneous earthquake. “It lowered the rim.”
Green instinctively launched the pass to the open man, but then quickly grew concerned as he realized the recipient was an old man with bad knees.
“I threw it and when I saw that it was Tim, I was like hopefully he can catch it and come down with it and make a play,” Green said. “But he caught it and threw that thing down.”
For the Big Fundamental, it was no big thing.
“I used to do it a lot, back in the day,” Duncan said. “Fifteen, 20 years ago.”
LOS ANGELES – Is this how Dwight Howard’s L.A. story ends?
Does it finish with two technical fouls and an automatic ejection with 9:51 left in the third quarter of a second consecutive home blowout? Is this how the future of the franchise, as general manager Mitch Kupchak called him a few months ago, exits — walking off through the tunnel to a golf clap before much of the sold-out crowd had even made it back to their seats?
And then, like ships passing in the night, the Lakers’ royalty of past and present emerged from the tunnel for the first time during these two playoff games at Staples Center. Dressed in a black suit and moving slowly on crutches, Kobe Bryantchose that very moment to make his appearance, to wave to the crowd, as if to reinforce whose hands still cradle this proud franchise. He took a seat behind the bench, serenaded by the familiar chant of “M-V-P” as action on the court played on.
Howard said he somehow missed Kobe coming in as he was heading out.
“I didn’t see anybody,” Howard said in hushed tones. “I didn’t even know he went out there.”
Bravo, Lakers. No one does drama like you.
Meanwhile, the always sympathetic 7-footer, Pau Gasol, remained as last star standing to finally bury this tragic season. If this was to be Gasol’s last stand as a Laker, at least the faithful sent him on his way with a heartfelt standing ovation with 3:08 left in the game.
“I guess there’s a sense this is a possibility,” Gasol, with the topic of his departure sensitive, said after producing 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Gasol and the ragtag Lakers that mopped up this season were no match for the San Antonio Spurs, who are headed for an extended layoff after finishing off the depleted, and now officially defeated, Lakers with a first-round sweep. Sunday’s Game 4 was never in doubt with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan & Co., going wire-to-wire for the expected 103-82 thumping.
And so here we go dashing into your offseason story, L.A. — Lakers held hostage: Day 1.
Three seasons removed from their last title and anything more than a first-round series win, the Lakers’ future is now trapped inside Howard’s head. And after the loss, he was at his contradictory best while talking about this lost season and the season to come, wherever that may come for the free-agent-to-be.
Howard, almost comically, used the word “nightmare” to describe this season in its entirety, an unintentional nod to the “Dwightmare” moniker that media types dubbed Howard’s final, maddening, flip-flopping season with his old team the Orlando Magic. And, on a beach somewhere, those bums he used to call teammates are laughing so hard they’re spitting up their Mai-Tais.
“It was like a nightmare. It’s like a bad dream and we couldn’t wake up out of it. That’s what it felt like,” said Howard, who settled for seven points, eight rebounds and five turnovers in 20-and-a-half minutes before frustratingly getting a second technical. “It seemed like nothing could go right from the start [of the season], injuries and all that stuff.” (more…)
No Kobe Bryant. No Steve Blake. Almost assuredly no Jodie Meeks. And most likely no Steve Nash.
No matter. Howard says he still believes.
“We have total confidence that we can come back and win this series, and we believe in each other,” Howard said following Friday’s workout when the Los Angeles Lakers learned of their worsening injury woes. “We worked too hard to get in the playoffs. We had to fight to get in and we’re not going to give up just because we’re down and have a lot of guys that are injured.”
The Lakers’ rickety season is once again on the brink Friday night as their first-round playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs moves to the Staples Center. With the Spurs up 2-0, it’s do-or-die for a limping Lakers team that could be forced to start a backcourt of two third-team, 2011 second-round draft picks in Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.
While Nash told reporters Thursday that his fingers are crossed that two epidural shots to his back will work in time to allow him to play in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Howard was working overtime with assistant coach Chuck Person with a helping hand from general manager Mitch Kupchak, a pretty good post player in his day with the Showtime Lakers.
It’ll be curtains for these slow-time Lakers unless the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard, once upon a time referred to as Superman, and his 7-foot frontcourt mate Pau Gasol, can assert their will on the Spurs and lift their less well-known teammates back into the series.
“Again, it is what it is,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of the bleak injury situation. ”It’s not what anybody wishes for, but at the same time we need to dominate inside and that’s Pau and Dwight. So it’s a big load for Pau and Dwight. At the same time, that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”
Howard, praised for his dominant play in the final two games of the regular season after Kobe went down to get the Lakers in the playoffs, has taken critical shots for not getting it done in the opening two games in San Antonio. He’s averaged 18.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and five fouls per game.
Everybody wants to see Howard rise to the occasion, to be a force that takes games away from the opponent. He took criticism for not being that dominant force in Game 2, scoring 16 points — same as Blake as well as the Spurs’ Kahwi Leonard and Tim Duncan — with nine rebounds, four blocks and five fouls when the Lakers had chances to keep the game close.
For Gasol, just 5-for-14 from the floor in Game 2, these could be his final games as a Laker. Well into the luxury tax next season, the organization will have to decide what to do with the player who is due $19.3 million next season and was all but traded to New Orleans last offseason before the blockbuster deal for Chris Paul was vetoed by commissioner David Stern.
Of course, Howard’s future is just as unsettled, although his future is at least in his own hands. The Lakers are desperate to sign him to a max deal this summer and make him the cornerstone of the franchise upon Bryant’s eventual retirement.
For now, it’s all about Game 3 and if Howard, reduced to 14th in this season’s voting for Defensive Player of the Year, and Gasol can play like the superstars their salaries say they are, and get L.A. a win.
“We just got to play,” Howard said. “We can’t control anybody’s injuries. We can’t control nothing but how hard we go out there and play. Me and Pau are going to do the best we can for this team.”
SAN ANTONIO — The Black Mamba didn’t tweet. Something about not wanting to be a distraction.
So Kobe Bryant sat at home again on the sofa in Orange County, this time resting his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon and both his thumbs.
The Red Mambadid tweak. And jostle. And shove. And pull. And prod. It was all about being as bothersome as a mosquito at a nudist colony.
Matt Bonner never rested for even a single one of the 29 minutes that he had to contest, confront and confound Dwight Howard.
The Lakers All-Star center scored 16 points, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked four shots, but also picked up five fouls and a technical in another one of those nights when he did so much head-shaking that you wondered if it might fall right off his broad and muscular shoulders.
This is life without Kobe for the Lakers, nobody to bail them out at the end of difficult possessions or do some of the improbable things that might make the Spurs defense loosen up and have to guard the perimeter.
There were times in the first half of Game 2 when Howard was a monster at both ends of the floor, muscling inside for rugged buckets and trying to swat down any shot that the Spurs tried. He snarled after rejecting a Tim Duncan shot and he roared after making back-to-back rejections on Tony Parker.
But Howard also went up for an offensive rebound and swung a hard right elbow that caught Bonner square on his face and sent him to the floor like a bag of rocks.
The red-haired Bonner wore a sheepish smile and a red welt as he stood in front of his locker.
“You knock me down, I’ll keep getting up,” said Bonner.
Call it the Chumbawamba defense. Maybe that’s why none other than Kobe himself bestowed the nickname Red Mamba.
Or maybe it was the 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting — including another running one-hander — dubbed the “Shyhook” by the wags of the Internet.
“Matty’s a tough-minded individual,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “He’s a heck of a competitor and a great team guy. He’ll do whatever we ask him to do. I think his family worries about him and the things we ask him to do out there.” (more…)
SAN ANTONIO — Long before they ever squared off down in the paint, exchanged pushes and shoves, elbows and hips and knees in the frenzy of a playoff game, Dwight Howard knew all about the Spurs’ No. 21.
Howard was only 11 when Duncan was drafted No. 1 overall by San Antonio in 1997 and Duncan had already won two NBA titles by the time Howard entered the league as the No. 1 pick in 2004.
“He’s a big guy who handled the ball, shot the ball well, had a lot of moves on the block and made it tough for guys to guard. I loved watching that.”
But Howard never tried to imitate that. The truth is, his angular body and his offensive moves that are less-than fluid did always resemble those of another famous Spur, David Robinson. Those two have become friends, occasionally chatting by phone.
Yet when it came time for hero worship, Howard cast his gaze in the direction of, perhaps, the most famous big man of all time.
“My childhood idol was Wilt Chamberlain,” Howard said.
But it wasn’t grainy old videotapes that piqued his interest. The 1980′s-era Alphie the Robot,a one-foot tall toy that asked questions and dispensed bits of trivia to young minds, first told Howard about Chamberlain.
“He used to say: ‘Wilt Chamberlain scored a hundred points,’ ” Howard recalled. “I was intrigued by Wilt Chamberlain from that moment on. I wanted to meet him, but he died before I got a chance to get to the NBA. He was my childhood idol.”
A six-year-old quickly began to research and learn about Chamberlain.
“If you came out the back of his house and looked up to the right, my house is right there,” Howard said. “Mariah Carey lives right by me. You can see the ocean from my rooftop, downtown and the Staples Center from the back.
“And I’ve got a telescope just like Wilt had. The roof of his bedroom used to open and he’d look at the sky. Now I’m looking up at all the same stars.”
Along with a slice of the sky, it seems they also share struggles at the free throw line and a few personality traits, including a persecution complex. (more…)
Kobe Bryant, the hottest thing to hit Twitter since hashtags, has said he will hold back his 140-character exhortations and observations when the Lakers first-round playoff series with the Spurs resumes on Wednesday night.
After drawing as much or more attention than the series opener itself — a 91-79 San Antonio win — the Mambatweeter has decided to restrain himself for Game 2.
Bryant’s steady stream of tweets has been one of the main topics of the sports world over the past 24 hours, receiving criticism, praise and bemusement.
For what it’s worth, none of Bryant’s teammates expressed displeasure with anything that he typed. Of course, they were too busy with the actual game to be aware of what was happening and none of the players even raised the subject at Monday’s practice.
However the grin and eye-roll by Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni when asked about Bryant’s tweeting in the post-game press conference has undergone almost as much scrutiny as the Zapruder Tapes.
“He’s a fan right now,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a fan, and you guys put a little more importance on that kind of fan. But he’s a fan. He gets excited. He wants to be a part of, and I don’t blame him. It’s good.”
Was D’Antoni taking a shot at Kobe? Was his comment intended as a slight?
Following Monday’s workout at their practice facility, the Spurs weren’t ready to wade deep into the mini-controversy.
“I was playing,” said Tony Parker. “I don’t know what he was saying.”
Manu Ginobili, who missed nine of the last 10 regular season games while nursing a strained right hamstring, said he did consider tweeting from the sidelines. He has 1.6 million Twitter followers and has sent out more than 4,000 tweets.
“If it’s more support, I would definitely do it,” he said. “Or to just comment on a couple of plays. I’m not going to criticize plays, or we should have run that or this. It’s not my style. I think it could be nice and different.”
However, the taciturn Tim Duncan simply shook his head and said that he would never be tempted and, in fact, has not been on Twitter even once.
“I’m probably the only person I know that hasn’t,” Duncan said to reporters. “I have no desire to tell you guys what I’m doing.”
SAN ANTONIO – It’s a brave new world, where all of us are connected.
Well, almost all of us.
There were those nine troglodytes in Lakers uniforms who ran cluelessly up and down the court at the AT&T Center as if they didn’t know fire had been discovered or the wheel invented.
While the rest of the planet was entertained, motivated and fully informed by Kobe Bryant at the center of the Twitterverse on how to slow down and shut off the Spurs, his teammates were like those old Japanese soldiers who finally wandered out of the mountains not realizing that World War II had ended.
Poor Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace.
– “What I would say if I was there right now? Pau get (your) ass on the block and don’t move (until you) get it,” Bryant tweeted.
– “Post. Post. Post.”
– “Gotta milk Pau in the post right now and D12. Will get good looks from it.”
– “Gotta get to the block. See (what) Spurs (are) gonna do with Pau and D12.”
Poor Mike D’Antoni. Perhaps by Wednesday, he can modernize to use carrier pigeons instead of cave paintings during timeouts to get his messages across. Maybe the Lakers’ equipment manager can find a way to duct tape an iPhone somewhere onto the body of each member of the team, so they can get constant updates and suggestions from “Coach Vino,” which is what Bryant called himself on Friday. After all, this is the 21st century .Why should the minor detail of torn Achilles tendon stop Bryant from finding a way to get into the series?
One can picture the restless Black Mamba squirming all over the sofa in his Orange County mansion, with his bad leg propped up on a pillow and his thumbs flying across the keyboard.
– “Matador defense on Parker.”
– “This game has a ‘steal one’ written all over it for us.”
Of course, it would have helped if the Lakers had been able to connect on more than 3-for-15 behind the 3-point line or knock down any of the other many open shots at the basket they had. And it might have been a “stealable” game if the Lakers hadn’t turned the ball over 18 times.
“I was happy with the looks we got,” D’Antoni said. “I wasn’t happy with the turnovers we had.”
For all the postgame talk in the Spurs’ locker room of finding their missing defensive intensity and execution, the outcome was as much about all of the things the Lakers simply could not get done. Nash was the one who received a pregame epidural to treat the pain from his lingering hip injury, but Gasol was too often the one that struggled as if trying to give birth to any kind of offensive rhythm.
This was a game that the Spurs won handily despite no one among Tim Duncan (6-for-15), Tony Parker (8-for-21) and Manu Ginobili (6-for-13) being able to make half their shots. Even when the crowd tried to summon up a “Beat L.A.!” chant in the third quarter, it was listless. Without Kobe, playing the Lakers is like a trip to Oz without running into the Wicked Witch of the West.
The truth is the Lakers were in arm’s length to grab the kind of early win that can turn a series on its head until Ginobili went up like a bottle-rocket to close out the third quarter. With his newest teammate Tracy McGrady watching in street clothes from the bench, Ginobili did a “mini-TMac,” zipping in eight points in 85 seconds.
“I knew it was my time, usually,” said Ginobili, who had missed nine of the last 10 regular season games with a strained right hamstring.
The second of Ginobili’s treys was a walk-up heat check with 2.4 seconds left that probably had coach Gregg Popovich close to swallowing his tongue.
“If I would have missed it, probably he would have said something,” Ginobili shrugged.
If Manu had been a Laker and missed it, there’s no telling what kind of fireballing, nasty tweet Kobe might have sent his way.
When D’Antoni was asked later if he approved of Bryant’s running commentary and criticism, he smiled and rolled his eyes.
“It’s great to have that commentary,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a fan. He’s a fan right now.”
Just a fan the way King Kong was just a monkey.
Bryant replied almost immediately.
– “A fan?? lol.”
– “Nervous response. I’m sure he didn’t meant it that way. No big deal.”
The Lakers did pound the ball into the post throughout the day. They did use their size to body up and turn it into the kind of brute strength, ugly affair that is their path to an upset in the series. After looking uncomfortable early, Howard did get 20 points and 15 rebounds.
“We can’t get discouraged because we lost the first game,” Howard.
Dwight had better wait until hears from his BFF on Twitter.
Kobe still has thumbs that work.
– “On to game 2. I will be watching from the crib again in a Pau jersey and Laker face paint ha!” (Joking) aside, we will be fine on (Wednesday).”
But eventually, even the Mambatweeter thought better of his input.
– “I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself. Not my intention , just bored as I guess.” #notagain
It’s a brave new world, where the Lakers who actually played found out you’re not paranoid if Big Brotherreally is looking over your shoulder.