Trouble in river city
SAN ANTONIO -- Dynasties don’t die that easily.
The San Antonio Spurs didn’t like what they saw in their near future, so they dipped into the past with an effort that made the Lakers hem and haw at every juncture.
It was the type of game that has brought the Spurs four championship parades since 1999, an aggressive mix that led to a 103-84 victory Sunday in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers shot 42.7% and found little space to operate, making the sweltering heat outside seem less confining than what greeted them inside AT&T; Center.
The Lakers still lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, though Game 4 is also at AT&T; Center, on Tuesday.
Afterward, long after all the missed shots had been tabulated and the Lakers’ locker room had cleared out, Coach Phil Jackson and assistant Kurt Rambis stood in front of the whiteboard, drawing plays and diagraming schemes next to a pile of towels and discarded plastic hangers.
Far from panic-stricken, the Lakers expected the Spurs’ best shot. They just didn’t expect it to go practically unanswered.
Not exactly the way to capitalize on their 101-71 thrashing of the Spurs 48 hours earlier in Game 2.
“I think it was summed up by [consultant] Tex Winter’s wife, who said simply, ‘That wasn’t very much fun, was it?’ ” Jackson said.
Making matters even less enjoyable for the visitors, Manu Ginobili suddenly reappeared, scoring 30 points after hitting only five of 21 shots in the first two games of the series.
Kobe Bryant was the only functional part of the Lakers’ offense, scoring 30 points on 13-for-23 shooting, although he had only one assist. Everything else was a series of blotches on the Lakers’ landscape.
Lamar Odom made two of 11 shots and had seven points. Pau Gasol was seven for 18 and scored 15 points. Derek Fisher had two points. As a whole, the Lakers made eight of 17 free throws (47.1%).
“We feel like they did some things defensively that bothered our rhythm somewhat,” Bryant said.
The Spurs weren’t bothered at all.
They employed more motion in their offense instead of the traditional pick-and-roll schemes with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. There were fewer post-ups for Duncan, more shots from the perimeter by Ginobili.
All the added movement worked to perfection.
Ginobili made five of seven three-point attempts and converted all seven of his free throws. He had 22 points as the Spurs built a 49-39 halftime lead.
“We didn’t do some of the things we need to do to slow some of those things down . . . keeping bodies on guys and denying some of the swing passes,” Fisher said.
“We have to improve a great deal before Tuesday night in order to slow some of that offensive rhythm down.”
As Jackson said, Ginobili came into the game with a “spur in his hind end.”
Mix in the point totals of Duncan (22) and Parker (20), plus Duncan’s 21 rebounds, and the Spurs’ big three easily outplayed that of the Lakers.
There were plenty of other issues the Lakers would like to purge.
Bryant took one free throw in the game, and missed it. After collecting an admirable seven blocked shots in Game 2, the Lakers had none Sunday. They had only 13 assists, to go with 14 turnovers.
Odom and Gasol were particularly ineffective, missing several shots -- simple, difficult, didn’t matter.
“The shots they normally make didn’t fall for them tonight,” Bryant said. “I don’t think it is something they should get too discouraged about.”
Odom, however, was plenty dejected.
“There’s no way I can play like that for us to be successful,” he said. “I’ll take the blame on that. I know I can play better than that.”
The Lakers will practice today and try to move forward to Game 4, in a place where they are 2-6 since Fisher’s renowned “0.4" shot in the 2004 playoffs.
The Spurs are back, at least for a day, the experience of a champion steadily overwhelming the up-and-coming Lakers.
Will it happen again in Game 4?
“I think we grew up a lot [Sunday night],” Bryant said. “We have to understand the sense of urgency and type of energy that we have to play with and come back on Tuesday ready to do that.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Manu Ginobili’s points in Game 3. He had 17 in the first two games combined.
Number of points scored by Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher combined.
Points the Lakers scored in the second quarter. They were outscored, 28-15.
Number of rebounds for San Antonio’s Tim Duncan. Pau Gasol had five.
Three-point shots made by the Spurs (10 for 18). Ginobili was five for seven.
Free throws missed of the 17 taken by the Lakers in the game. Spurs made 17 of 23.