SAN ANTONIO – The Los Angeles Lakers have battled injuries, turmoil and lofty expectations under a heavy spotlight all season, so excuse them if they roll their eyes over the attention given to Kobe Bryant’s tweets.
Bryant tweeted throughout the Lakers’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series. Bryant, out for the season with a torn Achilles, critiqued his team’s offense on his Twitter account while watching the national broadcast Sunday afternoon.
Bryant will no longer tweet during games, saying he doesn’t want to be a distraction – but was he?
“Absolutely not. I’m a distraction,” Metta World Peace said. “I’m much more of a distraction than Kobe is.”
World Peace’s eccentricities aside, the Lakers have much more to worry about entering Game 2 on Wednesday night.
“Our concern is with the Spurs and what we have to do to get a win tomorrow,” Dwight Howard said.
Programming note: Game 2 – Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs at 9:30 p.m. ET/ 6:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet ONE.
Los Angeles entered the playoffs having won five straight, averaging 105 points in that streak, but had its third-lowest point total of the season in the 91-79 loss in the opener.
The Lakers shot 41 percent (30-for-73), including 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Howard and Paul Gasol combined to go 13-for-25, while guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake were 11-for-28.
“We’ve got to make shots,” Howard said. “We have to make shots. We got some good looks. Both of the Steves had some good looks; I think they will knock down those shots in this game.”
The Lakers spent their two off-days following Game 1 working on their offense. Bryant’s injury April 12 forced Los Angeles to change the playbook on the fly from a perimeter-based set to one that features Howard down low.
“We cleaned up our offense, how to the get the ball inside-out,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We added some new wrinkles, and defensively, be sure to go over the stuff that didn’t work and the stuff that might come up.”
Los Angeles limited San Antonio to 38-percent shooting, but the Spurs attempted 12 more shots and had nine turnovers compared to 18 for Los Angeles.
Manu Ginobili had 18 points in 19 minutes in his second game after missing nine straight with a strained right hamstring. Ginobili scored eight straight points to close the third quarter, helping the Spurs take a 70-57 lead.
D’Antoni said the Lakers don’t have any secrets to stopping Ginobili.
“I don’t think anybody has come up with it yet,” D’Antoni said. “We’re not going to invent it over the last two days. He’s just a big-game time player, always has been, that’s been his M.O. since I’ve known him in Italy. Just have to work it. He’s like Parker and Duncan, there is no real defense, there’s containment, try to hope he doesn’t kill you with a timely 3 and all that. Again he did all that, we scored 80-something points.”
Tony Parker also had 18 points, but was 8-for-21 as he struggled to finish under the basket. Parker said he is not fully recovered after battling a sore neck, ankle and shin in the final month of the season, but is getting healthier every day.
“I don’t know if we change things (offensively in light of Parker’s injury), but you look for other people to help us out scoring wise probably,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Because there are some things Tony is not yet confident with, movement wise, but he’s getting better every game, every day and he’s much closer to being whole. So I don’t think he’s going to have a problem as far competing and playing the way we’re used to seeing him most of the season.”
The Lakers can empathize.
A season that began with the promise of a 17th NBA title following a trade for Howard has devolved with the firing of Mike Brown and injuries to Howard, Gasol, World Peace and Nash. Nash missed Los Angeles’ final nine games of the regular season with a hamstring/hip injury and World Peace returned a week after undergoing surgery for a lateral meniscus tear in early April.
“Doesn’t matter, pain, no pain, doesn’t matter at this point, you go,” World Peace said. “That’s what it’s about – going, that’s it. The moment you say I’m playing through pain or playing with some discomfort or I’m not ready or not in rhythm that’s an excuse, it’s a way out. There’s not going to be an easy route trying to reach the goals that we want to reach.”
Gasol, who tore his planar fascia, struggled offensively in Game 1. Bryant tweeted the best way to get Gasol on track was to “Post. Post. Post.”
Bryant’s commentary drew a rolling of the eyes from D’Antoni following Game 1. The coach later added he didn’t mind Bryant’s tweets, saying the Lakers guard is now “a fan,” which drew an “Lol” from Bryant.
“That was a great joke,” World Peace said of D’Antoni’s “fan” comment. “Mike D’Antoni is slick, boy. That was awesome. Kobe was awesome at tweeting at coach’s decisions on the court and coach messaged him back through the media. That’s what it’s all about.”