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It's Tough to Know Where to Begin ...

May 09, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

After reviewing every play of the first two games between the Lakers and San Antonio, it's clear that the three-time defending NBA champions are looking at an early summer vacation if they don't play better defense and stop turning over the ball.

The Spurs have had no problem getting open shots against the Lakers' flat-footed defense and they've enjoyed 39 gift-wrapped points off 35 turnovers.

With Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant knocked out of their comfort zone by San Antonio's defense and forwards Rick Fox and Devean George out with injuries, it's easy to understand why the defending champions are on the ropes.

But it takes four victories to advance and the Lakers are sure to get a boost from Staples Center fans tonight.

A breakdown of Game 3:

LAKERS' MOVE -- After ripping the Spurs in previous playoff series with his shooting, guard Derek Fisher has floundered this year. Fisher struggles to create offense off the dribble and the Spurs have forced him to do that by making sure Tony Parker and Speedy Claxton stay close. Fisher can help himself by moving more without the ball and being prepared to shoot when the ball gets to him.

Although O'Neal has solid numbers, he has been frustrated by foul trouble. He should stick with his power game but be willing to adapt if officials continue to side with Spurs' defenders in the post. O'Neal may have to score mostly off rebounds, as he did in Game 1 when he grabbed seven of his 21 boards on offense.

The Lakers have also been dribbling too much, Bryant being the ringleader. Whenever Bryant makes quick decisions with the ball, the Laker offense has more flow. But when he tries to beat defenders with an assortment of one-on-one moves, his teammates are usually left standing in place. That's not good against a team like the Spurs, who may have the best defense in the league.

The Lakers' defensive intensity has been a joke. Manu Ginobili looks like a bigger Allen Iverson the way he has been able to penetrate, and Bruce Bowen may as well been playing a game of H-O-R-S-E the way he was left open in Game 2. That can't happen if the Lakers hope to turn the series around.

SAN ANTONIO'S MOVE -- Led by Ginobili and Claxton, the Spurs' role players have dominated their Laker counterparts. That's because Coach Gregg Popovich gave his reserves heavy minutes all season; they're simply continuing their strong play.

In Game 2, Spur pick-and-rolls worked all night. San Antonio guards were able to freely drive around picks and create congestion for the Laker defense. That left open jump shots or easy follow-up baskets.

The Spurs need to continue to outwork the Lakers if they want to complete a sweep.

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