Apr 18, 2011, 2:11 AM EDT
This is not a changing of the guard in the West.
The day is coming when Oklahoma City and maybe New Orleans or Memphis are going to be whooping the Lakers and Spurs in the playoffs and it will not be an upset. There will be a passing torch (or more likely, the ripping of the torch out of Kobe Bryant’s hands, he’s not giving it up willingly).
But don’t read that into the Lakers and Spurs dropping their games Sunday.
The Lakers and Spurs had bad days (for different reasons) and while they may both have a tougher series than expected one game is not a huge signal.
What we really saw is that in the West, the bottom half teams are still very good, and fully capable of beating the elites when the elites are not at their peak. But we’re a ways from saying the Spurs and Lakers are not the teams to beat.
For the Lakers, their pick-and-roll defense was terrible and Chris Paul was brilliant in making them pay for it. Derek Fisher cannot guard Paul. But what Paul did brilliantly was come off the pick and when Laker big man Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol showed out on him, he kept is dribble going and moved away from the pick, dragging the big man with him and forcing a switch. All the while Paul never gave up his dribble. It was a master tactical move and the result was Paul isolated on Bynum or Gasol a lot. And he abused them.
Hence, the three New Orleans turnovers total in the game.
It was defense that sparked the Lakers hot streak after the All-Star break, and they are a team that often does not play well if they don’t respect their opponents. And for all the lip service they gave to how good they thought the Hornets were, they did not go out and play like it. They went through the motions. It’s why the Hornets shot 59 percent on shots inside of 10 feet in the game.
This is what we have seen from these Lakers before. They eventually do show up and play hard. Expect a different defensive effort on Wednesday night.
As for the Spurs, you see just how much Manu Ginobili means to them. The Spurs shot 21 percent (7-of-33) on midrange sots in this game (compared to 42 percent for the Grizzlies). The Spurs missed some shots they make, while the Grizzlies could not miss — Marc Gasol was 9-of-10 and Zach Randolph could not miss from the midrange.
The Spurs have lost the first game in five of their last seven first-round playoff series, this is not going to rattle them. They’ve been here.
Look for the Spurs also to hit their shots next game while the Grizzles percentage drops.
One loss does not make a changing of the guard. The Spurs and the Lakers remain the teams to beat in the West.
Now two losses in a row to start a series….
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