So last week's blowout of San Antonio showed the Lakers would dominate the Spurs in a seven-game series, right? They've got too much size! Who guards Andrew Bynum?
Or not. Tuesday at Staples, the Spurs returned the favor, waxing the Lakers on their home floor in a game functionally over by halftime. The Lakers had no answers defensively, giving up a hefty 63 points to San Antonio over an opening 24 minutes in which San Antonio shot 63 percent. (This meant no repeat of the 30-rebound game for Bynum. Can't work the glass when the other team doesn't miss.) The lone quarter in which the Spurs were held under 25 was the fourth, likely only because Gregg Popovich dug fairly deep into his bench.
Moral of the story: San Antonio is good, and if these teams meet in the postseason will be a very, very tough out. Obviously things change for L.A. with Kobe Bryant in the lineup, but the Spurs are the real deal. I don't know which Lakers fans thought otherwise, but just in case, San Antonio certainly proved the point.
Here are three takeaways...
1. Do not turn the ball over.
This isn't exactly a new problem, to say the least. L.A. gave up the rock 23 times against Denver Friday and still managed to win. Tonight ... not so much. They were plenty sloppy in the first quarter, with six turnovers creating six points for San Antonio. Fortunately for the Lakers, San Antonio was equally generous, with five turnovers of their own. Both teams deserved more punishment than they got. In the second quarter, however, the Spurs tightened up the ship while the Lakers, whether in some misplaced homage to Southern hospitality or an effort to add just a few more charitable donations to their tax return, just kept giving things away, whether off the dribble or through poorly executed post entry passes.
With 5:25 to play in the half, the game was tied at 41.
5:00 - Ramon Sessions blocked inside.
4:44 - Turnover (Matt Barnes).
4:08 - Turnover (Steve Blake).
3:05 - Turnover (Blake).
2:37 - Turnover (Pau Gasol).
2:16 - Turnover (Gasol).
Friday night, Denver wasn't able to make them pay. To say San Antonio took advantage is a mild understatement. Tim Duncan's 20-footer at the 1:59 mark gave the Spurs a 16-point lead.
Sixteen points in three minutes. Ballgame.
2. Tony Parker made up for last week.
I don't think anybody thought Parker would shoot 2-for-12 again, as he did when the Lakers blew the doors off San Antonio a week ago. He's too good for that to happen in consecutive games against the same team. That said, I don't think anyone was counting on 29 points and 13 assists, either, in only 30 minutes of burn. Parker absolutely annihilated the purple and gold in basically every conceivable way save 3-point shooting. He destroyed them from mid-range, in transition, and on the pick and roll. Whether by accident or design, the Lakers too often were caught switching on him, creating mismatches he exploited, and they waited too long before trying to force him out of the comfort zone he found with the jump shot, with the bigs (notably Bynum) hanging back, conceding the shot in the hopes of cutting off penetration to the paint.
3. The Lakers didn't quit on the game.
After digging their own roadside ditch and leaping in head-first, at least the Lakers tried to crawl out. Not effectively, but they continued working into the fourth quarter, trying to generate some sort of comeback. Unfortunately, their defensive execution, which would have had to be monumentally good in order to erase the deficit, wasn't up to the task. But they've had moments this year in much tighter games where they seemed a lot more listless than in the second half Tuesday.
It was nice to see, but ultimately without consequence. The game was over with two minutes to play in the first half. Everything else, whether you're talking L.A.'s nearly 50 percent mark from the floor or 16/6/4 from Barnes, was basically window dressing.
This sort of stuff doesn't matter when the other guys cool off just enough at the end to finish a hair under 60 percent from the floor.