SAN ANTONIO — Something was missing. Actually, someone was missing.
It had a lot to do with scoring, as in not enough of it for the Lakers, in a grueling, often boring 91-79 loss Sunday to the San Antonio Spurs.
Kobe Bryant was present only on Twitter, watching from his home as the Lakers missed shot after shot and committed 18 turnovers in their playoff opener at AT&T; Center.
Yawn. Stretch. Head for the locker room. Game 2 is Wednesday in San Antonio.
It was worth checking futility records when the Lakers entered the fourth quarter with a meager 57 points. Their mark for fewest points in a playoff game is 66 against Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals.
“They made a lot of shots, we missed a lot of shots,” said Dwight Howard, who had 20 points on eight-for-12 accuracy, the only Laker to make more than 44% of his attempts.
This lack-of-accuracy thing has become more of an issue since Bryant was lost for the season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
The Lakers shot 36.7% against Houston in the regular-season finale and 36.5% against San Antonio the game before that.
They shot 41.1% Sunday in a rematch against the Spurs. That won’t get it done.
“If we knock down a few more shots, that would be great,” said Pau Gasol, who didn’t knock down enough, scoring 16 points on seven-for-16 shooting.
San Antonio was somehow less accurate, shooting 37.6%, but the Spurs were much smarter with the ball (nine turnovers) and blitzed the Lakers in fastbreak points, 17-2.
And remember this problem from earlier this season? The Lakers’ reserves were badly outscored, 40-10, as Manu Ginobili dominated with 18 points.
“We’ve got to be a little stronger with the ball,” said Gasol, who had a game-high six turnovers. “Understand that they’re going to be pretty active, especially at home and get away with some things, a lot of reaching and stuff.”
The Lakers scurried to even make the playoffs, clinching a spot on the last day of the regular season, but they drew the opponent they wanted — the No. 2-seeded Spurs, who are older and slower than the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.
True to their season-long nature, the Lakers’ opening lineup Sunday hadn’t started a game together yet — Howard, Gasol, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake.
“We’ve had a crazy year,” said Nash, who had 16 points on six-for-15 shooting. “We find ourselves in a position that we never foresaw without Kobe and trying to play the game a different way.”
The Spurs were everywhere defensively, slapping balls away from Howard and stepping in front of passes from Gasol as the Lakers’ big men combined for 10 turnovers.
“Everyone came out and hit hard, running the floor, just competing — even our older guys,” Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said after taking nine defensive rebounds and blocking two shots to complement his two steals.
Funny team, these Spurs. They finished the season on a 3-7 skid, including a 91-86 loss to the Lakers, and their coach called them “punchy, groggy and discombobulated” heading into the playoffs.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker had 18 points and eight assists Sunday, the only thing wrong with his stat line an eight-for-21 shooting effort. He had three steals by halftime as San Antonio took a 45-37 lead.
“For various reasons, some injuries, we had a tough April, but we knew with the Lakers we had to give our best and that’s what we did,” Parker said. “We did a great job, everybody was focused to control Dwight and Gasol, with us helping as much as we can.”
So the Lakers went back to their team hotel carrying the same descriptors that weighed down most of their season — turbulent, chaotic, turnover-prone.
Above all, there was that one phrase that appeared so often since October: Lakers lost again.
Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.