Though it happens on occasion in the first round of the NBA playoffs, having consecutive days off between games is uncommon; but that’s what the Lakers and Spurs face as they prepped for Game 2 with a second straight day of practice on Tuesday at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs won Game 1 by 12 points, a scoreline that L.A. may have preferred the chance to reverse in short order. Would an extra day between the two games take away from the desperation the loser typically feels?
If the Lakers thought so, they weren’t collectively revealing an excuse after practice.
“When the ball goes up in the air, we’re going to be ready to play,” said Steve Blake, who played well especially on defense with four steals and two blocks in Game 1. “It’s a huge game … if we want to win the series, we have to steal at least one on the road.”
While Blake and Steve Nash will be in the backcourt, what the Spurs expect to continue is L.A.’s offense running through the NBA’s most skilled big man (with apologies to Tim Duncan), Pau Gasol.
“He’s a great player and he’s got a lot of skills, so that’s why you see the ball in his hands as much as you do,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Gasol told Time Warner Cable SportsNet that he enjoys playing that role, that he’s just as happy to facilitate for teammates as he is taking advantage of his matchup. And that he did in the first half, notching all six of his assists, with coach Mike D’Antoni saying his teammates simply didn’t make shots in the second half. The Spaniard was well on his way to a third triple double in four games.
Gasol’s frontcourt partner, Dwight Howard, has also shown himself capable of finding open shooters out of double teams on the post, but 3 of 15 shooting from three-point range didn’t help assist numbers (one).
Hitting perimeter shots is always a key in the NBA, but particularly in the case of this Lakers group, who needs to see the ball go in from distance to open things up inside. The Spurs were content to allow open jump shots, in favor of sending constant attention towards Howard and Gasol that helped cause 18 total Lakers turnovers.
That’s perhaps the key adjustment for D’Antoni: finding ways to get the ball inside against an overloaded defense.
In other news, Jodie Meeks missed practice for the second straight day due to his sprained ankle, but did say he expects to be available for Game 2. Nash (back, hip, hamstring) practiced and reiterated his Monday claim that he’s simply not going to be 100 percent, but trusts himself to find ways to be effective if limited.
Both teams will hold shootarounds on Wednesday morning in advance of a 6:30 p.m. Pacific tip off.