The Lakers put forth a great defensive effort Sunday afternoon against the San Antonio Spurs. They held the very efficient and productive Spurs’ offense to 91 points and 36.7 percent shooting, both well below the Spurs regular season averages.
What continued to ail the Lakers Sunday is their offensive woes. The Lakers again shot poorly from the field; Lakers shot 20 percent from 3s and 41 percent overall from the field on Sunday against the Spurs. It is a continuation of their last 2 games of the regular season where the Lakers combined to shoot 36 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3 point line.
The Lakers were committed to feeding the post to their bigs yesterday. The Spurs made it difficult for the Lakers to get the ball to their bigs by fronting the post and once the ball did get there the Spurs active hands caused 10 turnovers from Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combined. The difficulties in the post should come to no surprise as the Spurs are one of the best in the league in defending the painted area. Teams in the regular season shot an inefficient 39.4 percent against the Spurs in the post.
While it is understandable that the Lakers feed the post as that is the Lakers strength with their All Star pair of 7 footers, Howard and Gasol. The issue is that post defense is also the Spurs strength. The Lakers should fare better than the league average with Gasol and Howard and definitely shouldn’t abandon the strategy to feed the post; however, they absolutely need more production from the perimeter if they have any chance in this series.
The Lakers offense has been relegated to either post up plays or 3 point shots in the last 3 games since Kobe Bryant’s season ending injury, not much else. The Spurs defense is much too good to expect a team to be successful with so little ways of attacking them on the offensive end.
The problem with the Lakers is that the Lakers don’t have much in their offensive repertoire without a player to create shots for himself or others. That was until the Lakers got back Steve Nash.
Steve Nash returned to play after missing the last 8 games to a sore hamstring. Nash was a bit rusty, but appeared to move well and not favor his sore hamstring. He played 29 minutes and shot 6 for 15 from the field. Not a great shooting night for the usually very efficient Nash, but he did miss many open shots from the perimeter that are usually automatic for him and we should expect for him to knock many of those down going forward in the series.
With Steve Nash the Lakers offense can add some variety such as more pick and roll sets with the bigs instead of forcing feeding the low block every time down. If plays break down Nash is better than any other Laker in isolation. In isolation or off screens, Nash is adept at getting off pull up mid-range shots or floaters around the rim. In Nash, the Lakers also add one of the best shooters to spot up from the outside. In short, Nash takes the Lakers currently very bland and predictable offense to a completely different level.
Steve Blake has played well filing in for Nash, but he is limited offensively. Blake does not penetrate as well, shoot anywhere near as efficient or run the pick and roll anywhere near as well as Nash. In the last 3 games Steve Blake has averaged just about 20 points per game, however, he is shooting a poor 38.7 percent from the field and almost half his shots are coming from behind the arc (22 three point attempts out of his 49 field goal attempts).
The Lakers fortunes will need to rest in the hands of their stars players going forward. In desperate need of improved perimeter play to get back in this series, the Lakers must rely on their remaining star perimeter player, Steve Nash, to answer the call. Steve Blake is nice, but with him at the helm, the Lakers’ offense has struggled overall. The Lakers cannot depend on role players to take on star roles at this time of the year. Its win or go home time and Nash must become what he was brought here to be, and that’s Steve Nash. Steve Blake can go back to being Steve Blake.