Originally written April 28, 2013 on Project Spurs:
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All it took was a week (literally) for the San Antonio Spurs to defeat and eliminate the injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers, as Sunday was the final game of the Lakers’ 2013 campaign, where the Spurs once more blew them out on their own floor 103-82. It was a tale of two “stars” on Sunday, as Tony Parker led the Spurs like any captain would in a battle to put away the enemy - by leading his charge with 23 points and four assists to send D-League guards Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris back to the Summer League at least gaining some experience in competing with one of the NBA’s premier point guards. The other “star” Dwight Howard, did the opposite Sunday as Howard let his emotions guide him and he eventually ended up watching his team lose from the locker room, as Howard was ejected early in the third quarter with two technical fouls. As had been the trend in the series, the Lakers, missing a plethora of their key contributors, were able to compete with the Spurs for one or two quarters, but by half Sunday, they already found themselves facing an 18-point deficit. Five Spurs players scored in double-figures on Sunday and every player in uniform got at minimum three minutes of playing time. Even Tracy McGrady, who hadn’t played a regular season game with San Antonio, logged five minutes and an assist in the blow out. With Tiago Splitter sidelined with a sprained ankle, Aron Baynes earned the start and did what was needed of him – play solid defense and score when you’re put into good opportunities.  Baynes finished the game with six points but his defense was the key. With so much mass on his body, he was able to stand his ground with Howard in the post and it frustrated Howard so much in the third quarter, that he eventually earned his second technical foul from arguing about positioning in the post to the referee. Kawhi Leonard (13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), Tim Duncan (11 points, 6 rebounds), and Danny Green (9 points – 1/3 three pointers) all chipped in on the starting unit to help Parker and Baynes. While DeJuan Blair (13 points), Gary Neal (11 points), and Manu Ginobili (6 assists) paced the Spurs’ bench to outscore the depleted Lakers bench unit 41-31. In the four games, the three constants for the Spurs to use as key elements going forward into their next series is their defense, transition on offense, and careful handling of the basketball. Defensively, the Spurs again had successful quarters holding the Lakers to no more than 24 points in a quarter, and their best display was the second quarter where they held the Lakers to 14 points. As for transition on offense, the Spurs again dominated the fast break points as they outscored the Lakers 19-4. The speed of the Spurs’ guards mixed with the inexperience of the Lakers’ backcourt and the slower Lakers forwards and centers, gave the Spurs the fast break advantage they needed to prepare to play up-tempo teams in the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. One huge benefit the Spurs have had in the playoffs is their careful possession of the ball. The Spurs finished game four with just eight turnovers and kept their turnovers relatively low in the series as opposed to their season average where they turned the ball over almost 15 times per game. The Spurs will now have time to rest, recover (Boris Diaw and Splitter), and prepare for their next opponent – the Nuggets or Warriors. After game four, Tony Parker told a TNT reporter the next series was going to be a “track meet.” As the Spurs close one chapter on their 2013 playoff book in Los Angeles, they await to see whether chapter two will begin in Denver or Golden State.
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