The San Antonio Spurs have a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, and a 55-44 halftime lead in Friday night's Game 3. A scant 24 minutes of game clock from now, the Spurs will almost certainly have a 3-0 lead in the series, thanks to another efficient effort against a Los Angeles team that just can't keep up.
If the Lakers still have a hope, it rests on the shoulders of Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris. With their top four guards (Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Nash) all out with various injuries, Goudelock and Morris have been surprisingly good, with Goudelock leading all scorers with 14 points. Morris scored six points and added three assists before leaving with foul trouble.
Will Tony Parker take advantage of an inexperienced backcourt?
Where Morris and Goudelock haven't been good is on defense. Parker's 12 points and four assists have come on all manner of slicing and diving, with little resistance on the Lakers' end. Parker took an elbow to the head about a minute before the end of the first half, but remained in the game, and chalked up the injury to "playoff basketball" in an interview with ESPN's Chris Broussard.
How far can Dwight Howard push the Lakers?
Howard has been the Lakers' most consistent offensive weapon, but his old free throw woes have reared their head. His 12 points on nine shots would be significantly more impressive had he made more than four of the 10 free throws he attempted. Two fouls in the first quarter also kept Howard on the bench briefly, which allowed the Spurs to take a 30-18 lead after the period.
Will anyone else step up for Los Angeles?
Goudelock, Morris, and Howard have a combined 32 points, not bad for a threesome consisting of a little-used guard, a D-League MVP, and 2012-13 Dwight Howard, but Pau Gasol has been nearly invisible as a scoring option since the first few minutes of play. Gasol had four points in the game's first five minutes, then just two in the rest of the half, and though he has 11 rebounds, the Lakers could definitely use some scoring out of him to help keep up with the Spurs.