There isn't much to be said about Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker that hasn't been said through various championship runs in the past. Duncan's 37, but can still drill shots from the midrange and further -- finishing with 17 points Sunday -- while bottling up opposing big men. He kept Pau Gasol out of the paint all game.
Manu went 3-for-4 from downtown, half of his 18 points. And although Tony Parker was an inefficient scorer -- he needed 21 shots for his 18 points -- he had eight assists, getting past his man at will and kicking to shooters. It's the same as it ever was, and it still wins.
As you can tell from the 79 points by Los Angeles, it wasn't the team's best day offensively, starting in the post. The theme of the game -- and the heavy focus of Kobe Bryant's mid-game tweet barrage -- was the underwhelming play of the Lakers' prime post players, Gasol and Dwight Howard.
They each had moments of brilliance, including several thunderous slams by Howard in the second quarter that recalled his freakish youth of the Orlando days, and much of that came off of pretty passing by Pau.
But despite a San Antonio team that played some serious small ball -- there were more than a few lineups where Matt Bonner was the biggest guy on the court -- Gasol spent more time trying to facilitate than he did banging in the paint against inferior defenders. Gasol is incredibly nifty and reasonably strong in the paint. Tthere wasn't enough of him trying to create opportunities for himself and his teammates down low.
With Los Angeles not connecting from deep -- 3 of 15 from beyond the arc on the game -- its only shot at victory was winning the battle down low. The Lakers' big men were inefficient, though, with Gasol scoring 16 points on 16 shots and Howard performing only slightly better with 20 points. The pair did dominate on the defensive boards, with 15 each, but they only managed one offensive board despite tons of misses by the team's guards.
The Lakers opted to go Double Steve, starting Steve Blake and Steve Nash in tandem for the first time. The guards didn't result in as much creativity as Mike D'Antoni might have hoped -- the pair combined for just five assists, mostly relegated to dumping the ball into the post. And neither made a huge difference scoring, either.
However, the seemingly weak defensive lineup held up against Parker and Danny Green, with Parker having a bit of an off night and Green ineffective as the off guard. The problems for L.A. started when Parker and Ginobili played together, with the Frenchman beating his man easily before kicking to an open shooter. Nash did look spry in his return from injury, even if the shots didn't fall.
The Spurs were ahead early, thanks to Tim Duncan, whose timeless touch on 18-footers resulted in several quick baskets to start the game. Meanwhile, San Antonio was successful at keeping Gasol and Howard from going to work, as each attempted jumpers from outside the paint in the game's opening minutes. The Lakers' offense would go quiet, with the Spurs taking a 24-12 lead shortly before the end of the first quarter.
But the Lakers weren't done. Howard and Gasol finally began playing off each other in the second, and the result was an 8-0 run punctuated by a vicious Howard slam that cut the score to 28-24. San Antonio would pick up their play, soon leading by double digits again, and would enter the half up 45-37.
The Lakers would score the first four of the second half, but strong play from Los Angeles guards and wings - Nash, Blake, and Metta World Peace would all contribute buckets - once again trimmed the lead to four. Ginobili would answer, scoring ten points in the period. A personal 8-2 run by Ginobili ended with a pair of threes that didn't even shake the rim, giving his squad a 13-point lead - the team's biggest of the game - to start the fourth.
Gasol would hit a couple of shots to get the lead briefly under double digits, but a series of threes put San Antonio up 16, and that was all she wrote.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m.