Reporting from San Antonio
The two big men stood toe to toe going at each other, neither backing down, neither much of an offensive threat.
But for the Lakers to have Pau Gasol stand his ground against Spurs All-Star forward Tim Duncan on Wednesday night proved to be a big difference in the Lakers' 92-83 victory.
"It wasn't the greatest offensive night for either of us, obviously," Gasol said. "But I just tried to make an impact on the game defensively and rebounding."
And he did.
Gasol scored 10 points and missed seven of 11 shots. But he had 12 rebounds.
What impressed his coaches the most was Gasol's defense on Duncan.
Gasol had two blocked shots, both against Duncan.
Gasol limited Duncan to six points on two-for-11 shooting.
"His length, I think, was a bother to Tim tonight," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I don't know if it's that way all the time.
"He had a couple of shots he blocked. I think the two nullified each other pretty much and they controlled each other. I think Pau outscored him by four points, which isn't a whole lot. But that's still on our end."
Gasol stood one on one against Duncan late in the third quarter, the 24-second clock winding down. Duncan got the ball on the block and hesitated before he shot. Gasol blocked the shot.
Gasol was one on one with Duncan again in the middle of fourth. Gasol blocked that shot, too.
When it was time for Gasol to show a little offense, he did.
Gasol's left-handed hook over Duncan gave the Lakers an 84-76 lead.
The plan was to try to keep Duncan away from his sweet spots on the court.
Gasol knew that Duncan likes to drive the middle and that he likes to get a defender on his hip so he can turn and shoot a bank shot.
Duncan likes to step out on the pick-and-roll with Manu Ginobili and either roll for a dunk or shoot a 15- to 18-foot jumper.
Gasol was aware of all that and more.
He did his best to stay as close to Duncan as possible.
"I know him pretty well," Gasol said. "I know his shot that he likes to take. So I just try to get him out of his rhythm, out of his flow and make sure I contest his shots."