Without Kobe Bryant in the lineup for the postseason, we all knew that the Lakers must continually feed the bigs (Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol) and revolve their game plan around their post play. As Magic Johnson stressed before, during and after Game 1 on Sunday, Howard and Gasol are the Lakers’ biggest advantage and maybe their only one over the Spurs.
The funny and quite ironic aspect of Sunday’s playoff opener for the Lakers was that it was their offense that was problematic and not their defense. In fact, the Lakers held the Spurs to just 37.6 percent shooting (third consecutive game L.A. has held they opponent to under 40 percent shooting). However, the Spurs played defense too, and the Lakers couldn’t seem to buy a bucket in Game 1.
What has been working for the Lakers recently has been their high/low post game with Dwight and Pau. This is what Dwight Howard wants to continue to be the focal point in their game plan. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA, Dwight said the following after the game:
“As the series goes on, those [San Antonio] bigs will wear down from trying to fight for every possession,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to do a good job, myself and Pau, of not getting offensive fouls, not try to fight back too much, but read the defense. If they front, we have things set up to where we can counter that.”
This one-two punch of Pau and Dwight are the Lakers’ biggest strength on both ends of the court, especially without Kobe. However, unlike Sunday, the Lakers must do a more efficient job outside in order to spread the floor. Since the Lakers were continually coming up empty from the outside (on rather good attempts too) in Game 1, the Spurs were able to focus their defense inside and send extra bodies to force turnovers (Dwight and Pau combined for 10 turnovers).
The Lakers’ inside game did not appear or work as effective on Sunday as it has recently. However, the Lakers’ must make some minor adjustments to return to that post strength that has been a successful formula for them in time for Game 2 on Wednesday. They know it, Kobe knows it (via his tweets) and the fans know it. It’s all about execution.