“(I’m) feeling healthy. (I’m) feeling good.”
That was San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan after posting a dominant 26 points, nine rebounds, and block in his teams rout of the Los Angeles Lakers in Staple Center 120-89, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
How bad was the 31-point loss for the Lakers, who were without all of their starting guards and had to use D-League MVP Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris in the lineup? The blow out was the worst home playoff loss in Lakers history.
The Spurs collected 30 assists on Friday. Tony Parker was part of the contribution with his 20 points and seven assists. With the passing came more scoring, as five Spurs finished with more than 10 points – Kawhi Leonard matched his playoff average with 12 points, Danny Green broke out of his shooting funk for a night with 11 points, and even DeJuan Blair put up “Tony Parker floaters” according to Dwight Howard with 13 points in the fourth quarter.
As injuries have taken their toll on the Lakers and the rest of the NBA, the Spurs were dealt their own injury as Tiago Splitter suffered a sprained left ankle late in the third quarter. Splitter is expected to miss 7-10 days with the ankle sprain, as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich confirmed postgame Splitter didn’t break any bones.
Here are five takeaways from game three, where the Lakers competed for a half and then the Spurs just rolled away in the final 24 minutes.
1. Tim Duncan at age 37
Whether it was face-up jumpers, dunking the ball, or using his post position in the paint, Duncan was an offensive force throughout the night for the Lakers big men to handle. By the third quarter with a little less than five minutes remaining, he again had put Dwight Howard into foul trouble as Howard had collected four fouls, as he did in game two. Did Duncan get into Howard's head as he was called for a technical foul, you be the judge.
Duncan finished the game only missing four shots, where a majority were outside jumpers, as he shot 12-of-16 from the floor. There was a point early in the third quarter when Duncan was responsible for 10 of the Spurs’ first 12 points in the quarter.
2. Parker gaining steam, health
Without Blake on the floor, Parker went at the inexperienced Goudelock on certain possessions. On one possession, Parker jabbed right and then quickly back left with the ball to lose Goudelock completely. Parker missed just five shots on the night, where he shot 9of-14 from the field. Turnovers were an issue though, as he was responsible for 5 of the Spurs’ 14 turnovers.
3. The offense
Aside from scoring 120 points in regulation, the offense was clicking throughout the night for the Spurs as the team shot 61% from the field overall and every player who saw playing time scored in the game. The Spurs scored 30 or more points in all but one quarter, the second, where they still scored 25 points. 3-point shooting still seems to be an issue as the team only connected on 5 of their 16 attempted 3-pointers. Out in transition, the Spurs again dominated the open floor as they outscored the Lakers 19-6 in fast break points.
4. The defense
The Lakers had two of their best scoring quarters of the series as they scored 26 points both in the second and fourth quarters. However, the first and third quarters defensively for the Spurs were similar to the quarters they displayed in San Antonio as they held the Lakers to 18 points in the first and 19 in the third. The Lakers, even at home, only shot 43% from the field. Howard and Pau Gasol know the Spurs are looking to double or triple team them in the paint and they know their perimeter players need to make outside shots, only the Lakers guards didn’t once more as they shot 4-of-20 from beyond the arc, a statistic that gives credit to the Spurs’ perimeter players for jumping back out to shooters after the double-teams.
5. Could Diaw return four game four? Is World Peace out Sunday?
As stated above, Splitter is likely to miss 7-10 days, which would mean if the Spurs sweep the Lakers; it would give him extra time to rest and heal himself. Duncan said after the game that Blair and Matt Bonner would need to be efficient to help with Splitter’s absence.
On Wednesday before game two, Boris Diaw was out on the floor working on getting himself back into basketball form. I asked Coach Popovich before that game if Diaw could make a return in this series and he said it was doubtful. However, after the game, Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express News offered this news regarding Diaw.
Diaw walked out in a suit. He said it's possible he plays Sunday – needs to prove he can with contact Saturday #spurs
— Buck Harvey (@Buck_SA) April 27, 2013
Meanwhile on the Lakers’ side, Metta World Peace told a Lakers reporter he is going to sit himself out on Sunday, citing himself as being a weakness to the team if he’s not healthy.
Metta World Peace: "I'll probably sit out Sunday … I was the weak link tonight"
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 27, 2013
The Spurs will look to sweep the Lakers on Sunday in Los Angeles. Will the Spurs win and prepare for either the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets in round two, or will Howard and the Lakers will themselves to victory by making the Spurs pay for their double-teams and force the series back to San Antonio? After 48 minutes of basketball on Sunday, each squad will know which direction their future is headed.