Lakers center Dwight Howard and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard try to collect… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
Spurs 91, Lakers 79 (end of regulation)
The San Antonio Spurs (58-24) took a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Lakers (45-37).
The Lakers challenged throughout the game but the Spurs answered every run.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker each scored 18 points for the Spurs while Tim Duncan had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs shot 37.6% from the field.
The Lakers had 18 turnovers and shot only 41.1% from the field and 20.0% from three-point range (3 of 15). They also missed eight free throws, finishing 16 of 24.
Steve Nash returned from an eight-game layoff to score 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Dwight Howard led the Lakers with 20 points and he collected 15 rebounds.
Pau Gasol also had a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers. He also had six assists as well as six turnovers.
Steve Blake got the start for the Lakers alongside Nash in the backcourt, scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. The Lakers got only 10 points from their reserves while the Spurs' bench players tallied 40.
The two Western Conference rivals will meet again on Wednesday night for Game 2 in San Antonio.
Spurs 70, Lakers 57 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers continued their strong defensive effort through most of the third quarter, whittling the Spurs' double-digit lead down to four points at one point.
With San Antonio up six, Dwight Howard picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench with two minutes left in the quarter. Without Howard on the floor, the Spurs closed the period on a 12-5 run, including a pair of three-point shots by Manu Ginobili.
Ginobili leads all scorers with 18 points. Tim Duncan has 17 points for the Spurs, who are shooting 39.7% from the field.
Howard has 14 points to lead the Lakers, who have 15 turnovers and are shooting 40.4% from the field. Pau Gasol has nine points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Spurs' 13-point lead after three quarters was their biggest of the game.
Spurs 45, Lakers 37 (halftime)
The Lakers closed the defecit to within four points after holding the Spurs scoreless for four minutes, but San Antonio was able to finish the half up by eight points.
Dwight Howard leads all scorers with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting as the Lakers improved to 42.1% from the field after a poor-shooting first quarter. Pau Gasol has only six points but he's collected 10 rebounds and has six assists.
Tim Duncan leads the Spurs with 13 points by also making 6 of 9 shots from the field. San Antonio, which shot 50% in the opening quarter, had a more difficult time in the second quarter against the Lakers' defense, dipping to 42.2% from the field.
The Lakers had a five-rebound edge on the boards but turned the ball over 12 times to San Antonio's four.
Spurs 24, Lakers 15 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers got Steve Nash back from his hip and hamstring injuries but the team had a difficult time scoring against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Tim Duncan led all scorers with eight points for the Spurs, who shot 50% from the field.
The Lakers converted only 35% of their shots at Pau Gasol leads them with six points. Dwight Howard scored ony two points, his lone basket a jumper from the elbow of the free-throw line.
The Lakers and Spurs start their first-round playoff series on Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.
The Spurs won 58 games during the regular season and are widely considered the favorite over the Lakers, who are playing without Kobe Bryant after he tore his left Achilles' tendon last week in a victory over the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers struggled through injuries all year, winning 45 games, but expect to have point guard Steve Nash back for the Spurs after he missed the final eight games of the regular season with hip and hamstring soreness.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Spurs.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.