Before the Lakers take on the Celtics in the NBA Finals, we take a look back at what worked and what didn’t for the purple and gold in their successful four games to one take down of the Defending Champion San Antonio Spurs.
What Went Right:
• Just in case there were any doubters left out there regarding Kobe’s MVP candidacy, #24 answered their questions and then some, averaging a team-high 29 points while putting the Lakers on his back in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s series-clinching game.
• After emerging as arguably the Spurs’ most important player on offense this season, the injury-ravaged Manu Ginobili fell flat on his face for most of the series against the Lakers, only mustering 13 points on a forgettable 36% shooting from the floor. While Ginobili may not have been completely healthy, the Lakers’ defense deserves at least some of the credit for his ineffectiveness.
• As a team, the Lakers held the Spurs to just 88 points per game in the series’ five games–a stark contrast to their lackluster defensive efforts against the Nuggets and Jazz in previous rounds.
• Jordan Farmar awoke at just the right time for L.A., showing a night and day-like difference in confidence level compared to the Utah series. Against the Spurs, the UCLA alum averaged eight points and sparked Lakers’ rallies in pivotal victories in Games 1 and 5.
• Unlike the Conference Semifinals, the Lakers effectively controlled the boards against San Antonio, out rebounding them by a 43-39 edge, including eight to seven in offensive rebounds. Odom and Gasol each averaged 10 rebounds to lead the team.
• Tim Duncan averaged 22 points to lead the Spurs, including a dominating Game 1 and 3 effort, but overall, he only shot a sub par 43% from the field. The Lakers’ defense was particularly good at stopping the former Finals MVP in critical stretches as evidenced by his ineffective final quarter in L.A.’s Game 5 win.
• Vladimir Radmanovic showed the team much more in the Conference Finals than he did for most of the Utah series, averaging more than eight points while shooting an impressive 63% from the floor. The forward also pulled down over four rebounds in 26 minutes of playing time.
• Both the Lakers and Spurs excelled at taking care of the ball, with each team only turning it over 12 times.
• While the Lakers’ bench wasn’t as crisp as it was during the regular season, it still badly outperformed San Antonio’s reserves. Aside from Ginobili’s contributions when Popovich elected him to start on the bench, Robert Horry, Ime Udoka, Jacque Vaughn and Kurt Thomas averaged a combined 10 points.
What Went Wrong:
• As has been the case all season long, the Lakers let another point guard burn them, allowing Tony Parker to put up over 19 points and six assists per game. Luckily for L.A., they won’t be seeing an elite point guard in the Finals.
• Pau Gasol struggled at times on offense against the physically more intimidating Duncan, often shying away from his finesse game and deferring to teammates. Overall, Gasol averaged just 13 points on the series–well below his season average of nearly 19.
• Although he came through big time in the Lakers’ epic comeback in Game 1, Lamar Odom was largely inconsistent for much of the series against the Spurs, averaging 13 points to match Gasol. However, it’s worth noting that the forward was clutch when it mattered most in the series despite his offensive ineptitude.
• Although much of the talk prior to the series centered around Derek Fisher’s legendary 0.4 shot against the Spurs in the playoffs four years ago, the veteran wasn’t much of a factor this time around, putting up just six points on a disappointing 38% shooting from the field.
• Like Fisher, Luke Walton was similarly unproductive against San Antonio, only averaging five points per game. Luke’s post-season has been up and down overall as the forward played well against Denver, but hasn’t been able to replicate the success in the ensuing series.