Without the scoring punch and winning nature of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers need other players to step up if they want to upset the San Antonio Spurs in their first-round series. In Game 1, that didn't happen, the offense stalled and the Lakers got crushed, 91-79.
Facing the Spurs in Game 2 on Wednesday night, the Lakers will need a much stronger effort to avoid a 2-0 series deficit. That starts on offense, where L.A. needs to get more from its best players.
Though the Lakers were one of the best offensive clubs in the league this season with Bryant in tow, his absence radically changes the way the offense runs. Without his ability to handle the ball and create looks, L.A. needs to execute at a much higher degree of efficiency to fill the basket.
In the opening game, that lack of good spacing and execution left the Lakers constantly settling for questionable shots. Getting more from Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and even Antawn Jamison will likely be key if the Lakers are going to make things interesting.
With the Lakers looking at another early exit from the playoffs, here are three questions to break down Game 2.
1. Will the Lakers' defense hold up?
One thing that went fairly unnoticed in the aftermath of Game 1 was the relatively solid defense played by L.A. Though they struggled to stop Manu Ginobili once he got going, the remainder of the Spurs' offense was fairly ineffective as the Lakers clogged the post and prevented San Antonio from getting inside to set up easy three-pointers on the outside.
One of the most efficient offenses in the league, the Spurs shot just 38 percent in Game 1. The Lakers also took away one of San Antonio's biggest weapons -- the three-point shot -- for the most part, limiting the team to making just 7-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc. Remove Manu from the equation, and his teammates were 4-of-17 (24 percent).
Though L.A. badly needs to improve on offense, it won't mean nearly as much if the Spurs find their own rhythm on the other end.
2. Can L.A. cut down on the turnovers?
One result of the Lakers' lack of orchestration on offense in Game 1 was an excess of turnovers. Not only did L.A. struggle to find open shots, but it too frequently ended possessions without taking any shots at all, a reflection of the team's inability to run even simplest plays with consistency.
Though the Lakers shot a higher percentage in the first game of the series, San Antonio got a huge boost by committing just nine turnovers to the Lakers' 18.
Given that Los Angeles has a pair of veteran point guards in Steve Nash and Steve Blake, one would imagine that some adjustments are coming in Game 2. However, 10 of those 18 turnovers came from Gasol and Howard, so getting those players into better positions on the floor will be important.
3. Will the Spurs' backups be the difference?
Though the Spurs got out to an early lead in Game 1, it was the play of Ginobili off the bench that really allowed San Antonio to pull away. With L.A.'s reserves getting outscored, 40-10, in the opening game, the Lakers really didn't have a chance.
Without the scoring punch provided by Bryant, Los Angeles could badly use some help from guys like Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Earl Clark, who have all made solid contributions to the team this season. Getting big games from lesser players such as those may be key to the Lakers fighting off San Antonio's impressive depth.