SAN ANTONIO — In a season filled with discontinuity everywhere they turned, the Lakers’ 91-79 Game 1 loss Sunday to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center provided a visual reminder how that element has made their chemistry messier than the pollution here at the Riverwalk.
The Lakers miss Kobe Bryant, of course. His season-ending torn left Achilles tendon prompted the Lakers star tweeting out his frustrations presumably from his Newport Beach residence instead of bailing his team out of a poorly played game.
“Nothing worse then watching your brothers struggle,” Bryant tweeted, “and u can’t do crap about it.”
There was plenty the Lakers couldn’t clean up.
Steve Nash returned for the first time since missing the previous eight because of soreness in his right hamstring. But in a game where he scored on only 16 points on 6 of 15 shooting, Nash’s presence only brought more confusion on offense. It also hardly sounds promising that he just described his health as “okay,” though he insists he will play through it.
Either way, the Lakers’ starting lineup featuring Nash, Steve Blake, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard marked the first time they played together as a unit. It should serve as no surprise they finished with 18 turnovers, a statistic D’Antoni said marked “the difference in the game.” It also didn’t help the Lakers shot 37.6 percent from the field and conceded 17 fast-break points.
“We can’t get discouraged because we lost the first game,” said Dwight Howard, who blemished his 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting and 15 rebounds with four turnovers. “San Antonio did what they were supposed to do tonight, but we’ve just got to come in the second game. We saw a couple of things we could have done better.”
Bryant saw them too. He expressed repeatedly his wish the Lakers featured Pau Gasol more in the post.
“What I would say if I was there right now?” Bryant tweeted as the Lakers trailed 45-37 at halftime. “Pau get ur [tail] on the block and don’t move till u get it.”
That didn’t happen.
Gasol’s 16 points on 7 of 16 shooting and 15 rebounds featured the Lakers forward missing eight of those shots on outside jumpers. Gasol also only took three shots in the paint. All those attempts went in the basket, but Gasol didn’t have enough of such attempts to make a difference. Yet, it didn’t help Gasol’s cause that he committed six turnovers.
“Understanding every possession is going to be critical,” Gasol said. “We had a chance tonight at times. We need to maximize our opportunities.”
But Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni argued that had nothing to do with Gasol’s lack of inside presence.
“You can’t just put 15 guys near the basket,” D’Antoni said. “He has to go in and out. We don’t always want a jump shot. You have to mix it up.”
Yet, the Lakers still remained within striking distance by holding the Spurs to 41.1 percent shooting. Though Tony Parker posted 21 points, Steve Blake played a large part in holding him to an 8 of 21 clip. Bryant even sensed “this game has a “steal one” written all over it for us” after the Lakers cut the Spurs’ lead to 52-48 with 5:42 remaining.
Minutes later, Howard collected his fourth foul and the Spurs closed out with a 12-5 run. It didn’t help that Matt Bonner (18 points) and Manu Ginobili (18 points) and Tim Duncan (17 points) cracked double figures.
“On to game 2,” Bryant tweeted. “I will be watching from the crib again in a pau jersey and laker face paint ha! All jk aside We will be fine on wed.”
Lakers coach D’Antoni chuckled about Bryant’s tweeting, joking “it’s great to have that commentary.” He then added, “you guys put a little more importance on that kind of fan.”
Moments later, Bryant responded on Twitter: “A fan?? Lol” before adding the hashtag “microphonetalk.”
“I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself,” Bryant said. “Not my intention, just bored I guess.”
Who could blame him?
The Lakers’ on-going lack of continuity resulted in one ugly game.