Lakers/Spurs: Picturesque Play Silences The Spurs

Darius Soriano —  March 6, 2011

Whether or not you believe in statement games, the Lakers certainly made a statement today versus the Spurs. By controlling the game from the opening tip and cruising to a 99-83 win (a score that didn’t reflect just how handily the Lakers controlled this contest, by the way), the Lakers moved to their post all-star record to 7-0 and showed that they’re a team ascending as the regular season fades and the playoffs inch closer. So while this one win counts the same as any of the other W’s that have racked up over the course of the season, the difference is that this game showed what the Lakers are capable of doing when motivated and dialed in on both sides of the ball.

There were so many positives to take away from this game, it’s difficult to know where to start to praise the team.

Actually, that’s a lie. I know exactly where to start. The Lakers defense was tremendous. Again. In the first half they held the Spurs to only 37 points and an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 88.1. Before the game I mentioned that the Lakers needed to keep Parker and Ginobili to one side of the floor when they looked to penetrate while still closing out on shooters camped behind the arc. The Lakers executed this plan to perfection as Artest and Fisher hounded the Spurs primary ball handlers into Andrew Bynum’s long armed challenges at the rim time and time again. All day neither Parker nor Ginobili (combined 9-24 FG’s for 20 points) found it tough sledding getting to basket without a Laker defender on their respective hips and a big man stepping up to challenge their shot. In fact, after the first few possessions it was tough for them to find a lane to the rim at all as most their shots ended up being contested jumpers where the Lakers wings were able to shadow them close enough so that a driving lane never developed and all that remained was an 18 footer that ended up being challenged.

But even when the Spurs were able to penetrate to draw the D and the ball got kicked out to Richard Jefferson, Matt Bonner, or Gary Neal, the Lakers rotated quickly and decisively to run those shooters off the three point line and into shots over the top of helping bigs. Numerous times we saw Jefferson and Bonner face a hard close out only to put the ball on the ground with no where to really go but into the waiting arms of back-line Laker defenders. On several occasions both players tried awkward flip shots at the rim over the outstretched arms of Bynum and Gasol with no success. Really, the Lakers’ D was just suffocating as they left few cracks out on the perimeter and even fewer near the rim.

(On a related note, here is the part of the recap where I again, as it’s becoming a habit of late, must heap praise on young ‘Drew. Every time the Spurs sniffed the painted area he was there to contest the shot and either block it outright or alter it enough that it fell harmlessly aside. By the time the 3rd quarter came around it seemed that the Spurs had resolved themselves to only taking short jumpers or floaters as getting all the way to the rim without Bynum coming over to alter the shot was as likely as winning the lottery. Plus, he was then active on the defensive glass tallying 11 on the day and out-hustling every player to the ball whenever it floated into open space. On twitter I compared Bynum to some 7’0″ version of a Reggie Evans/Jo Noah hybrid as the young man was everywhere all the time. He was simply fantastic. My apologies for the gushing but he was simply that good. Oh, and did I mention that Tim Duncan was only 1-7 for 2 points on the night and that Bynum was the primary defender?)

Meanwhile, on offense, the Lakers were nearly as good as their defense was in the first half. In order for the Triangle to run effectively, spacing is probably the most important ingredient. Against the Spurs, we were treated to a clinic in generating good spacing and we were all witness to how that spacing can create great looks for the team. With Kobe and Fisher setting the tone with good entries to the post and the wing and then cutting and screening hard off the ball the Lakers were able to move into their proper positions and then run their sets with fantastic efficiency. On multiple possessions the ball moved quickly and without hesitation from the wing to the post to the opposite side of court with a wide open shot the final result. And when the ball was shot the players that had never quit moving into position for the next pass were then able to get position for offensive rebounds. I mentioned the Lakers’ defensive efficiency of 88.1, but their offensive efficiency was a dynamic 154.8 as they did everything right. Seriously, take a look at the play by play information in the first quarter. Those made shots that are detailed were nearly all reflective of fantastic team play where each Laker did a great job of making the right read and then not only executing correctly but doing so with excellent timing so as to not break the rhythm that they were building. After not too long the Lakers were up nearly 30 points and that was, essentially, the ball game.

Where the Lakers didn’t do that well though, was in closing this game out with the same intensity and focus they used to build that big lead. Rather than continue to pound the ball inside and run their sets and seek out the best shot the Lakers second unit seemed content on just taking the first good shot that presented itself. This meant a lot of early jumpers with little ball or player movement. When the ball did move it was just swung around the perimeter rather than thrown into the post where the team could run their actions and set up the wide open looks they’d gotten most of the game. It got so bad that Phil – in a 20 point game mind you – went back to Kobe, Fisher, and Gasol with 5 minutes left rather than letting the Barnes, Brown, and Blake group continue to allow the lead to get cut into. And even though the game was never in doubt (the Spurs were playing their 3rd stringers at this point) the message was clearly sent. After the game Kobe even said that Phil was “sending the 2nd unit a message that even in a blowout they need to play hard” and that was a message that was delivered loud and clear. And while I was a bit uncomfortable with seeing starters in the game at that juncture and under those circumstances (I always have my concerns with injury), I must say that I was happy that Phil did what he could to get his point across.

In the end, though, when the biggest concern in a game against the West leading Spurs is how the backups managed a blowout lead in the 4th quarter I’d say that the team had a pretty damned good day. Overall the Lakers were sharp, focused, and it led to a dominant team performance where every player contributed positively. Forget the individual stats here, the fact is that a team showed up in San Antonio today and they delivered a beat down. And for that, I’ll live with some mishaps near the end. After all, a game like this is something to build on with a tough week of hoops ahead and the season nearing its end.

Darius Soriano

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45 responses to Lakers/Spurs: Picturesque Play Silences The Spurs

  1. I like Phil making Drew the primary defender on Duncan. Yes, he may not be giving him big minutes in the 4th (to be fair, we’d kill Phil if Drew got injured playing meaningless minutes), but I thought that was a vote of confidence for the young guy.

    Our defense was really what I loved, because that’s replicable. The offense (let’s be honest) in the 1st half was a bit over our heads. Pau doesn’t hit 3’s, and Kobe normally doesn’t work George Hill quite like this. But to me, we saw the defensive quickness and intensity we’ll dominate in the playoffs.

    I know we’ve got to stay calm and even-keel win or lose, but man, I feel like a little kid after today’s game. I think I’m going to make a cotton candy run at some point this evening.

    Also a bit shocked at the Knicks getting such loud cheers in Atlanta, and the MVP chants for Stoudemire. The Lakers have been good for a long time, but the Knicks suddenly become a playoff team and all these fairweather fans emerge from the woodwork?

    From the last thread –

    Miami players apparently in tears after the game today. No word on whether this will be cut from the documentary Bosh and Wade are filming.

    Not sure what Spoelstra was trying to accomplish by telling the media that, but his players can’t like it.

    On the Bulls – I watch quite a bit and they have a playoff level defense, but (partly because of their offensive dependence on 1 player) part of me has trouble seeing them getting to the ECF. But then another part of me realizes how far Derrick Rose raises his game on the big stage, and I believe. I really hope they make it to the ECF, though. The only team in the East I feel comfortable pulling for.

  2. Very scary stuff watching Chris Paul’s injury. Hope and pray he’s alright, you never want to see that happen to anyone, let alone a young star.

  3. Definitely a statement game. Lakers proved what they are capable of (with some cold shooting help from the Spurs), but also have to keep it in perspective.

    I think Phil is going to have to start giving Andrew crunch time minutes simply because of his D. The guy is starting to play like a monster. He and Artest (when on) can be real game changers with their combined D.

  4. Drew’s activity was great. It looks like he’s regaining his conditioning and getting that strength back in his legs. He is great when he’s this healthy and this engaged. Let’s hope that continues into June.

  5. Memphis grabs the lead! 14 seconds left. Man if the Mavs lose, it would be great to gain some ground in the standings.

    Edit – should have known Dirk would do that.

    2nd edit – Z-Bo!!

    Man, Memphis is becoming pretty dangerous.

  6. Absolutely awesome game. Disappointed that the lead got cut in half from its peak, but I think the flow on effects of this game will not be affected by this, bar the second unit realising they need to go hard every minute they are on the floor.

  7. This is a day that just keeps on giving. Heat down, Lakers thump Spurs, and now Dallas lose as well.

    I wonder if the Bucks have a big game in them…

  8. off topic, but WOW the ending to that memphis/dallas game was awesome. Hurray gaining ground on everyone above us!

  9. I heard Kobe post game, say something I’ve wanted to hear him say this whole season, despite of the bumps In the road that happen during a long 82 game season” WE ARE THE CHAMPS AND THE ROAD TOWARDS A TITLE GOES THRU US “If the whole team adopts this mindset the rest of the season and parlay It Into the type of dominating play they showed today, I have no doubt In my mind they will 3peat

  10. Whoohooo what a day for Laker fans…Did Jeff Van Gaundy said that the lakers are a poor defensive team last Christmas?

  11. and Dallas loses to Memphis at the buzzer?

    Dear Diary…Jackpot.

  12. The other thing that is important, in our hunt to prepare for the playoffs, is that the Lakeshow continue to look inwards and not worry about the periphery. If we continue to be effective on D, continue to work on great ball movement and execution, and continue to show a determination to improve, we will be a force come playoff time. While it would be nice to pass Dallas as well as Miami, Chicago & even Boston, it is more important that the team remains playing well, and keeping healthy.

  13. Who was it that called this game “basketball porn”? I think they might have been right. :)

    To me the best part of the night was Ron playing like the Ron Artest of his glory days, Bynum playing like a complete monster, and the team-wide clinic on defense. We knew they can play like this… but it’s nice to be proven right once in a while.

  14. The only Lakers with fewer FGAs than Bynum today were Luke Walton and Joe Smith.

    I don’t think any of us is taking this for granted, but it bears repeating: there’s very few players in the NBA that could dominate a game with so few shot attempts, regardless of age or position.

  15. I hope the Lakers do not draw Memphis in RD1. First round preferences:

    Denver
    New Orleans
    Portland
    Memphis

  16. Maybe now we can stop talking about trading anyone and get on with our preparation for the playoffs.

  17. Bynum totally set the tone early today, and it carried on throughout with great help from the teammates.

    I was fortunate to sit in the fourth row for Friday’s game and it’s just crazy to see how many shots Drew alters and rebounds he impacts, even beyond what’s shown in the box scores. He’s huge, he opens the floor for others, and he’s been absolutely key to this recent run.

    Also, big praise to Artest, who’s been a different player post All-Star break. I loved the pose and bicep kiss today — that’s the attitude we’ve been missing from him until recently. Swagger on, Queensbridge.

  18. 16, heck no! My first thought when I saw Andrew’s monster game was “sell high!”

    On a slightly more serious note, not to be the turd in the punch bowl, but we’ve seen some great regular season games from Andrew before. What we need (and have yet) to see is a performance like this in the playoffs. If he delivers like this in the playoffs, I’ll be more than willing to call him untouchable. Until then, I’ll still be devising some Trade Machine wizardry.

    There’s gotta be a way I can land both Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard…

  19. @Snoopy2006

    I will never root for any eastern conf team after the great debacle of 2004. I was dumb enough to root for Detroit because I thought they were a good story. Ugh.

    Also…I’ll take 17 rebounds over 17 points from Bynum all day and night. Defense is sexy!!

    Amen on Ron Artest, Mimsy…especially the antics.

    Great games today; only BOS losing would have made the day better.

  20. this game shows andrew bynum’s abilities but not to their full extent. I understand that there are better offensive options on this team but if the guards would throw the ball to andrew once in a while it would reall ymake him look good.I am absolutely sure that if andrew would be playing on a crappy team he would be a 20 10 guy every time he was on the floor because he would actually get the ball to score. Sometimes, when the laker guards are just jacking up shots from 20 feet doesnt it feel that maybe throwing the ball to andrew who is a mere 10-5 feet from the hoop is a better option then trying to hit long jumpers and threes which the lakers anyways cant hit on a regular basis.

  21. Zephid,
    That isn’t true… Bynum played this way against OKC before tearing his knee last year in game 6. And that was after sitting out a month with a calf injury. When healthy and in shape the guyshas been a consistent performer. Let’s just prey his knees can handle his regained explosivness.

  22. I come not to praise the Lakers but to bury the Heat …

    Don’t know if Wade was among the Miami players weeping after today’s loss vs the Bulls, but he sure sounded like a crybaby after the game: “The Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now because the Heat is losing.” Rotten sytax aside, gee I wonder why people dislike the Heat? Anybody here have any ideas?

  23. Boston losing would have made this a perfect day, in addition to learning that it was LeBron who cried. Oh well, can’t have everything.

    I’m wondering if Bynum finally turned a mental corner and realizes how he can be THE MOST important piece on our team without scoring much at all.

  24. Anyone reminded of the Lakers squad from exactly 10 years ago? They couldn’t keep it together on a consistent basis going into the All-Star break and came alive afterward – roaring through the playoffs in dominant fashion. There’s a part of me that begins to downplay today’s win, based on some of the head-scratching losses that we had only weeks ago. Still, I have to look at the consistency and effort since the break – this once again looks like a championship team. Great game.

  25. Zephid, D Will and Howard will both be free agents…… :-)

    edit: it really was just a joke.

  26. I’m going to wait until we play these next four games before I decide to get to giddy on how we stand. To be honest, this is the best game we have played in the seven won and we didn’t finish this one. Two things had to happen, San Antonio could not continue the hot shooting the displayed against Miami and we were going to play better than we did against Charlotte. The Charlotte game impressed me in the Lakers did not look past them thinking about San Antonio. Even though the offense was not there, their defense was great. Today both were great through a half and the defense was great for three quarters.

    At Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas then at home against Orlando is no easy trick especially with only two days between each game. But if the Lakers come out and trounce Atlanta (that is the only game without significance) I will be ready to begin getting giddy. Miami will be a test just because Miami has so much to prove given their recent failures. We HAVE TO BEAT DALLAS in order to catch them in the standings. Orlando is another trap game because it’s the last game of a tough stretch and the first game home after the four game roady. If we end this 5-0 it would be fantastic, 4-1 is expected. Anything less would be almost as disappointing as the 4-3 pre all-star run with the three losses coming after the four wins.

  27. The last two games signify why Drew is a better fit for the Lakers than Howard. Could Howard accept not getting his touches but stay after it by getting 17 rebounds and multiple blocks in consecutive games? I really don’t think so.

    Bynum fits a puzzle just like Lamar does. People need to realize that. The Lakers are like the Bulls of old, each player has a role, and if he fills it properly, the team operates like a well oiled machine. That’s why injuries effect us so easily, each person is vital to what the machine requires. Our bench players need to understand that and stick to the proven formula. PUJITs and ISOs are not part of the mix. Run the offense which sets up the defense and everything will be O.K. Don’t do it and you’ll end up taking a seat next to Phil back on the bench.

  28. Just watched the first half again on DVR. Andrew basically snuffed out the Spurs’ entire inside game within the first five minutes. Remarkable to see a guy dominate a game like that on the defensive end.

  29. I am glad we did not trade Bynum for Melo. Here is a good thread on why there was no trade done by the lakers…

    http://blog.mysanantonio.com/spursnation/2011/03/06/buck-harvey-trade-that-never-was-towers-over-the-spurs/

  30. Bynum channeled his inner Bill Russel today, dominating with rebounds, blocks and sheer presence. What he seems to be realizing is that, regardless of whether he gets looks, has plays run for him or is feeling his shot, he can do THAT every game. And, when he does, the Lakers are pretty much unbeatable.

    Up until the all-star break, the Lakers were playing at about 75% of their potential. The Spurs have dominated by playing at about 95% all year. But what we saw today was that the Lakers best effort is better than any other team’s.

    Jackson knows precisely when to release the hounds… he always has.

  31. Well I was kind of planning to tune out till the playoffs, since watching a team that IS this good, play as bad as the Lakers played up untill the All-Star breaks was disgusting… but man, they are pulling me right back in!

    Best wishes go out to CP3 though… nasty injury!

  32. I have gained a lot of respect for Andrew Bynum between last year’s championship run, and now this season.

    If he demanded touches on offense, he could be a big time scorer. Somewhere this season, however, he completely embraced committing his primary energies to being a force on defense and rebounding.

    Case in point, he is no longer needlessly getting into foul trouble, which means he can stay on the floor and affect the game. He cleans up on the boards, plays hard, runs the floor, gets blocks, and largely secures them control of the paint.

    Him and an engaged Artest are a potent attitudinal force for the Lakers.

  33. Friedman goes on a righteous rant in a massive Heatles/LeBron/Henry Abbott smackdown.
    http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2011/03/stumbling-heat-once-again-falter-in.html

  34. I have been saying all year long that Andrew has embraced Phil’s request to be a defensive presence. The kid is quite intelligent and he finally understands what Phil was preaching about. Just listen to an interview and you will hear how well he actually gets it.

  35. If only Kobe had not played,it would have been +35 point smackdown,leave it be 24,leave it on top and glide to the sunset.

  36. Key victory as the Lakers restore order. This is a much refreshing place to be when the Lakers win in a blow out. Great insight and comments by all with just occassional “turds in the punch”. :)

    As a marathon runner I’ve felt all the time that the Lakers are just pacing themselves. While we would like to set personal records or gain recognition along the way the essence of being a marathoner is to finish the race and chalk up another finisher medal (ring). Another thing…who cares what the other runners are doing.
    JLV

  37. 22, that’s true, he did play well against OKC.

  38. 32, I really enjoyed that article. Highlights pretty much all my beliefs about the 2010 Cavs and the 2011 Heat. The big point that stood out to me was:

    If Lebron’s supporting cast in Cleveland was so much worse than the Heat, why is it that Cleveland easily won 60+ games in 2009 and 2010, while the 2011 Heat have to close 17-2 to get to 60 wins? While I don’t think that’s conclusive evidence that the 2009 and 2010 Cavs were better than the 2011 Heat, I do think it is conclusive counter-evidence to the 2011 Heat being vastly better than the 2009 or 2010 Cavs.

  39. I thought the Friedman article was a little over the top. However, his points were dead on.

    I contrast LeBron’s lack of options in his offensive arsenal with the articles about D Rose working out with Love and Westbrook in Santa Monica last summer and plans to work on his post game this summer. A real contrast.

    On another topic, I am really encouraged by Bynum’s comments after the game and his apparent willingness to not worry about offensive touches. His rebounding and defense are the key to Lakers being a great team vs. a really good team.

  40. LA doing the little things as a team to win ball games is a very welcome sight to see for these eyes. The focus and determination to force their will upon any team in the league has been in the players all year long, but the importance of the season coming to an end in the next month and the aroma of a threepeat has awoken a hibernating bear. I dont place much emphasis on who this team beats, they are still two time defending champs and everybody in the league knows, its about every player on the team playing their part in creating the masterpiece.

    LA will lose again to a team that they should beat and it will not be an end to all, but rather a pothole in the uneven pavement of life. The bumps along the way always make you appreciate the smooth surfaces a little more than usual.

  41. Lebron for all his gifts is not a versatile enough scorer to be a go to guy at the end of games. I thought him going to Miami was a way of acknowledging that, but I guess I was wrong.

    Wade must be sick to his stomach to see Lebron miss another challenged layup while he stands idly at the 3 point line.

  42. i love when the lakers go beast mode on fools!

  43. Everyone is right… Forget that Lebron was one of the best closers the last 5 years in the NBA until this season…. Just throw that all out the window.

  44. Aaron,
    It is about Lebron’s inability to do anything different at the end of games. Good defensive teams can take away any single option. The requirement, therefore, is to have more than a single option to finish games successfully, whether that is a single person with many skills or multiple people with different skills.