For Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni, beating the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs is almost elusive as capturing an NBA championship. D'Antoni, of course, has accomplished neither. In 18 playoff meetings against Gregg Popovich, D'Antoni led squads have won four games.
With Tony Parker scoring a measly five points in the first half — Steve Blake, again, turned in another strong defensive performance — the Lakers seemed to be a decent position to steal a game on the road. Yet they were down eight points at the half — Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner picked up the slack, combining for 45 points.
The precocious Leonard, in his second playoff campaign, and Bonner were both valuable contributors, especially since the Lakers effectively limited Parker to an offensive cipher.
"(Leonard) played very efficient and very good," D'Antoni said. "That's the problem. They have so many guys who make baskets. It's either (Matt) Bonner doing it and (Kawhi) Leonard did it tonight. It's always (Tony) Parker, (Manu) Ginobili and (Tim) Duncan but then somebody else picks up the slack and tonight was Leonard and Bonner. Both of them played a terrific game."
Leonard's progression is well-documented. Though his per-minute production hasn't improved much, his confidence in Popovich's offense is noteworthy. Rather than shying away from pick-and-rolls, Leonard creates his own shot on the dribble — adding another underrated element to contend with. He doesn't shy away from the boards either; through two playoff games, Leonard leads the team in rebounds (9.0).
The supporting cast were just good enough to maintain a healthy lead. Then, Parker took the reigns. The Frenchman tallied 15 points in the third quarter and nine in the final frame to put away the 102-91 Game 2 victory.
But without a little help from his friends, the end result may have been much different. D'Antoni, once again, is in need of a miracle.