Lakers-Spurs Preview

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.

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.”