Ginobili shakes off the rust, leads Spurs to win in Game 1
Three thoughts from the Spurs 91-79 victory over the visiting Lakers on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round series:
Manu Ginobili just like new. The No. 2-seeded Spurs entered the playoffs in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with losses in seven of their last 10 games overall. But the return of Ginobili had a soothing and familiar impact as he finished the third quarter with 8 points in 85 seconds, thanks to a couple of huge transition threes that stretched the Spurs' lead out to 70-57 entering the fourth.
Ginobili, 35, had complained of rust after missing nine straight games before making his return in the regular season finale. But he contributed an efficient 18 points on 13 shots in 19 minutes. "It was great to have Manu back," said Popovich. "I'll worry all night about how he'll feel in the morning."
Both Popovich and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni were grateful for the extended opening-round schedule. Game 2 won't be played until Wednesday, giving an extra day of rest for both Ginobili and Lakers' point guard Steve Nash, who played 30 promising minutes in his first game since March. He wasn't as sharp as Ginobili because Nash (6-of -5 for 16 points with three assists) was continuing to deal with his lingering hip and hamstring injury. "It's something we'll have to watch," said D'Antoni. "He's not 100%. We do need his shooting on the weak side."
It would be a huge surprise if the Lakers were able to survive this series and go deep in the playoffs without Kobe Bryant, while the Spurs are aiming for a fifth championship for their franchise as well as for Tim Duncan. The health of Ginobili and Parker is going to mean everything to San Antonio after injuries sidelined both during the closing weeks of the regular season. Parker was 3-for-12 at halftime but went 5-for-9 thereafter and finished with 18 points and eight assists. It was a good postseason opener for all three of San Antonio's stars.
Three of the league's top big men are being featured in this series, and Tim Duncan was ready for the challenge in Game 1. The 36-year-old power forward finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. While Gasol and Howard combined for 36 points and 31 rebounds, they also committed 10 turnovers between them -- more than were surrendered by the Spurs overall. "The defense was our best in three or four weeks," said Popovich, who was also happy to see his Spurs limit Los Angeles to a 44-43 advantage on the boards
Howard was an efficient 8-for-12 from the field for his game-high 20 points. But feeding the post was a problem for the Lakers. "We had 18 turnovers, and some of that was turning down shots that were open (from the perimeter) and trying to force it in too much," D'Antoni said.
The Lakers continued to look like a team under construction. They reached the playoffs by winning their last five games while Nash was sidelined; now that Bryant is gone and Nash is back, they must adjust yet again. But Howard promised a better result in Game 2 so long as the Lakers emphasize him and Gasol down low. "As the series goes on, those bigs will wear down from trying to fight every possession," he said of the Spurs. "We want it, we got to go take it."
Kobe on Twitter. As the Lakers star recovered from recent surgery on his ruptured Achilles, he tweeted his concerns while watching the Lakers fall behind. The Spurs ran out to a 24-12 lead near the end of the opening quarter and never surrendered their advantage in what turned out to be a relatively straightforward game. The Spurs were never challenged and yet they appear to have more upside coming out of Game 1 than the Lakers. All the same, Bryant was optimistic throughout the opener. "This game has a "steal one" written all over it for us" tweeted Bryant while the Lakers were on their way to out-shooting the Spurs overall and holding them to an uncharacteristic 37.6% from the field.
Bryant clearly wanted to see the Lakers bang the ball inside, especially since his absence combined with the injuries to Nash and Jodie Meeks (four points in 20 minutes) depleted their perimeter game. "Gotta milk pau in the post right now and d12. Will get good looks from it"
Added Bryant: "Post. Post. Post."
When Mike D'Antoni was told that his star had been tweeting during the game, the Lakers coach said, "It's great to have that commentator." Then he rolled his eyes. Then, having realized that he rolled his eyes, D'Antoni went onto say: "He's a fan right now. You guys put a little bit more importance on that kind of fan. He wants to be part of it, so that's good."
Tweeted Kobe in reply: "A fan?? Lol #microphonetalk."
And then: "On to game 2. 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 #fanmamba"
And finally: "I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself. Not my intention , just bored as I guess #notagain"
Which is true. This game was, in fact, boring without him.