Manu Ginobili was hot. Even-when-you-were-in-his-face-the-three-would-fall hot. Combine that with a more aggressive Tony Parker (getting into the lane) and Tim Duncan, and the big three accounted for 70% of the Spurs scoring. With those three all going motion returned to the San Antonio offnese, and Brent Barry helped open up the floor. All of that sparked the Spurs to an offensive rating of 112 (points per 100 possessions).
And I’m not that concerned about that too much, it was bound to happen in this series. The Spurs have those rings for a reason. But they will cool off a little in future games. More concerning was that the Lakers offense went into hibernation.
KD says the problem was Kobe took charge early and as a result Odom and Fisher (and to a degree Pau) went passive. That’s an old (like last season) chicken-or-the-egg problem with the Lakers. I personally put that less on Kobe and more on his teammates, they should not fold up because he decided to keep the team in the game early.
Some credit is due to the Spurs. They were more physical in game three (and the refs let them be) and were back to their long-time defensive strategy: defend the paint, defend the three-point line and make you shoot the midrange. The Lakers fell into that trap and did not attack the rim — on the season the Lakers made about 25 free throws for every 100 field goals they attempted, last night it worked out to about 9.8. The bench mob came in and, like all the Lakers starters not named Kobe, were ice cold. Take Kobe out of the stats and the Lakers shot 39% (eFG%), which really hurts on a team that wants to make you pay for paying too much attention to Kobe. Bowen (with Duncan backing him up in the paint) do a respectable job on Kobe, but the other Lakers need to take advantage of that focus. In Game Four, Odom and Pau have to be the aggressors and attack the rim, even if it means a few blocks. It also will mean a few made baskets and a few fouls on San Antonio bigs.
There are nights like game three when there is nothing you can do about a hot player on the other team (how other teams feel against Kobe all the time) but you still have to not let it rattle you and take care of business on the other end. That is what the Lakers failed to do in game three. We’ll see what changes in game four — because if nothing does the problems become much bigger.
• On a completely different track, but a very good one, the guys at Upside and Motor have a great idea — rather than have one of those online TNT yellowbook cams following Kobe, vote to have the camera follow Ronny Turiaf for a whole game. How much more entertaining would that be?