I can’t say I’m surprised by the result — especially since I wrote as much in the game preview — but I can say I’m a bit surprised by some of the details of the outcome. The Spurs did what they were supposed to do in this game, so give them credit. They blew out a team who’s injured and lacking cohesion. They didn’t have letdown, didn’t come in unprepared. They put their foot on the Lakers’ neck and took the 3-0 lead they were supposed to grab considering the circumstances.
Where the surprise comes in is that it actually wasn’t the Lakers’ guards who struggled in this one. Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock started this game in place of Nash and Blake, and did quite well for themselves. Morris had the best offensive night of his career, scoring 20 points on 9-15 shooting while also handing out 6 assists. He showed relatively good poise and flashed some good playmaking instincts. Goudelock scored 24 points on 8-17 shooting, showing off a more refined version of the offensive game he flashed last season. He hit an array of runners, pull up jumpers, and spot up threes to remind us that if there’s one thing he can do is score the ball.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol also played pretty well, all things considered. Dwight scored a team high 25 points on 9-16 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. He worked through physical play all night, getting hit and wrapped up on nearly every paint touch. And while he could have showed a bit more composure, I don’t blame him for being visibly frustrated by how often he took a hard shot from one of the Spurs. As for Pau, he recorded his first ever playoff triple-double by scoring 11 points (on 5-10 shooting) while grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing 10 assists (both team highs). While I would have liked to see Pau get up more shots, he was fantastic at picking out teammates for makable shots and being patient in taking what the defense was giving him.
Besides those four Lakers, however, no one else did much of anything. And that, of course, is a problem. If the team was ever going to hang tough against a team as good as the Spurs, they needed to have everyone raise their level of play. Instead, Ron (who, to be fair, just had his knee drained and was clearly not moving well) went scoreless in 17 minutes, while Jamison (2-5) and Clark (2-9) combined for 9 points on 14 shots in a combined 50 minutes of action. Add in Duhon’s poor display (0-1, zero points, no assists in 25 minutes) and the Lakers simply didn’t have enough in this game.
So, ultimately, this was a pretty frustrating night even though what came about wasn’t totally unexpected. It was certainly disappointing to see the defense struggle the way that they did, but the Spurs were a top offense all year for a reason. They know how to execute and get the shots they want. Plus, when Tim Duncan is hitting his jumper all night, it’s going to be tough to hold them down in any way considering that long two is the one shot a defense should feel comfortable surrendering on most possessions. But with that shot going in, the Lakers had no answers for the Spurs’ offense and, so, the rout ensued.
Game four is on Sunday and we’ll see how the Lakers respond. I don’t think we’ll see them lay down, but another bad loss wouldn’t be unexpected. At this point it’s clear that the Lakers don’t have enough to compete for a full 48 minutes. And while that’s upsetting, it’s also the reality of the situation.