The Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs, but that game provided plenty of points of optimism.
Although the instant reaction was to quickly say the Lakers missed Kobe Bryant’s scoring, which they did, the Lakers were able to control the pace of the game on the road.
The Lakers came out flat offensively, turned the ball over, and could not buy a basket from long range. Still, the Lakers were within four points deep into the third quarter before the Spurs broke the game open late.
Steve Nash actively participated in a game for the first time in three weeks, and Nash may have been rusty with his shots, but he was still able to get clear looks at the basket. If he can get those same looks on Wednesday, Nash is likely going to shoot better than 6-15 in Game 2.
Another major point of separation for the Lakers was three-point shooting. LA shot 3-15 from beyond the arc, and the Spurs’ four extra three-point makes amounted to 12 extra points. The Spurs were hardly perfect from long range, but the Lakers were noticably below standard from distance. The Spurs do deserve credit for limiting the Lakers’ two best three-point shooters, Nash and Jodie Meeks, to only three combined attempts.
Beyond a rusty Nash and missed shots, the Lakers lost the game on turnovers.
Gasol and Howard combined for 10 of the Lakers’ 18 turnovers on Sunday. San Antonio, as a team, only had nine turnovers. Consequently, the Spurs registered 11 extra points off turnovers than the Lakers.
With all that said, the Lakers have real cause for optimism entering Game Two.
Even on the road, the Lakers were able to control the tempo of the game and turn it into a gritty defensive contest. The Lakers were able to impose their newfound defensive style of play. It may not be pretty to watch, but it allowed them to hold the Spurs to 54 points with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Spurs averaged 103.0 points per game this season, but the Lakers never allowed the Spurs to score more than 25 points in a quarter during Sunday’s game. If the Lakers can continue that on Wednesday, they should be in position to steal the game.
Along with the rusty Nash excuse, the Lakers travel schedule was a bit of a head scratcher. LA practiced in El Segundo on Saturday morning and took a flight on Saturday afternoon. Considering the early Sunday game, the Lakers did not leave themselves much time to get adjusted.
Ahead of Game Two, however, the Lakers will have two days to prepare without any travel, and Nash should be three days more prepared to play.
If the Lakers can control the pace, limit their turnovers, and shoot slightly better from the field, winning Game Two is a serious possibility. If that happens, the Lakers' probability of winning the series would increase tremendously.