SAN ANTONIO — It appeared the Lakers outlined the perfect blueprint on how to steal a playoff game and perhaps extend their postseason beyond a cameo appearance.
Dwight Howard dominated. Steve Blake hit outside shots. Through crisp ball movement, disciplined defensive rotations and encouraging body language, the Lakers finally epitomized the team work they had needed during their season-long struggles.
Yet, the Lakers learned in their 102-88 Game 2 loss Wednesday to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center that seemingly perfect foundation they finally formed can crack any minute.
Howard appeared more than engaged, posting 16 points on 7 of 12 shooting and four blocks and showing energetic body language. But he also collected four fouls midway through the third quarter and stayed mostly silent the rest of the game. Steve Nash still appears hobbled with a sore right hamstring, while Blake went to the bench to attend what appeared to be an injured right hamstring. And in another reminder that they sure could use Kobe Bryant, the Lakers allowed the Spurs to close out each quarter with either a double-digit run or a basket before time expired.
More importantly, the Lakers face a 2-0 deficit to San Antonio, a daunting reality considering only 15 NBA teams have overcome such an obstacle in a seven-game series. Incidentally, the Lakers bounced back after trailing 2-0 to the Spurs in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. San Antonio also lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year’s Western Conference finals after winning the first two games.
It won’t be easy. The Spurs have a 36-6 home record.
THIRD QUARTER: Spurs 78, Lakers 68.
The Lakers are hanging in there. But they’re not in control of the game.
Dwight Howard collected four fouls and sat out the final 8:35. The Lakers didn’t make a field goal for the final 2:22. And as it’s been all game, they closed out the quarter in horrific fashion. The Lakers allowed Spurs guard Gary Neal to hit an open jumper with two seconds left to give them a double-digit cushion.
Lakers guard Steve Blake leads the team with 16 points, while Howard and Pau Gasol have combined for 27 points. But that hasn’t been enough to stop Tony Parker (19 points), Kawhi Leonard (14 points), Manu Ginobili (13 points) and Tim Duncan (12 points).
HALFTIME: Spurs 56, Lakers 48
The Lakers nearly played a perfect game.
Dwight Howard dominated. Steve Blake made outside shots. The entire Lakers team showed discipline with both ball movement and defensive rotations.
But that’s still not enough to handle the Spurs, who closed out the second quarter with an 11-4 run. That entailed a lot of Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner hitting open three-pointers as well as Kawhi Leonard cashing in transition. The run sent Blake into such a fury that he kicked over a chair after the Lakers called timeout while training 53-46 with 41 seconds remaining.
The Spurs have proved incredibly dangerous, boasting Leonard (14 points), Tim Duncan (12 points), and Ginobili (12 points). Yet, the Lakers still outlined a good blueprint on securing Game 2.
Howard excelled in the paint (10 points), passing out of double teams and on defense (three blocks). Blake hit critical outside shots (11 points on 4 of 9 shooting). The Lakers limited the turnovers (five). But they’ll have to do more.
FIRST QUARTER, Spurs 28, Lakers 23
The Lakers are making a better effort in finding open shots for Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
But they’re still not converting them. They only combined for a 4 of 11 clip to open the first quarter. Yet, Howard’s making an impact by his mere activity both in passing out of double teams and keeping the defensive rotations sharp. Meanwhile, the Lakers have gone 3 of 6 from three-point range.
That hasn’t been enough to lead the game. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (eight points) and Tim Duncan (six points) have led the way. The Lakers also only shot 37.5 percent from the field
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