On a night headlined by the ejection of Dwight Howard, the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals with a 4-game series sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers. Game four was yet another dominant performance by the Spurs, as they cruised past LA by the final score of 103-to-82, but as usual, the spotlight shifted from the “boring” Spurs to the “fashionable” Lakers.
Tony Parker led all scorers for San Antonio with 23 points (on 9-of-16 shooting), and the Spurs had five players (Parker, Duncan, Leonard, Blair, and Neal) in double-digits on the night. It was a total team effort for the Spurs offensively, but as a collective, they shot over 46% from the floor and a blistering 20-for-23 (87%) from the line on the night. In addition to their efficient shooting, San Antonio assisted on 24 of their 39 baskets, and committed only 8 turnovers while forcing a staggering 21 turnovers (that resulted in 24 points) from the Lakers.
The aforementioned Dwight Howard ejection (at the 9:51 mark of the 3rd quarter) grabs the biggest headline of the night, as he unceremoniously exited what could be his final game in a LA uniform. Howard played 21 minutes before his ejection, but somehow only attempted two field goals (he made both), and notched nearly as many turnovers (5) as rebounds (8). It was a fitting end to a disastrous year for Howard, but the icing on the cake was the emergence by Kobe Bryant from the locker room following the ejection and the subsequent jokes (as a sidebar, Twitter is fantastic) concerning the Kobe/Dwight relationship.
Frankly, this a complete dissection from the opening tip and even before the Howard ejection, the Lakers showed very little resistance against a much, much better Spurs team. In fairness to LA, they were deploying the backcourt combination of Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, and Chris Duhon (who played 43 minutes!!!), but even with the lack of talent, the effort level simply didn’t match that of the Spurs in the wire-to-wire victory for San Antonio.
With their dominant performance in the series sweep coupled with the giant loss of Russell Westbrook for Western Conference rival Oklahoma City, the Spurs put the entire league on notice. A healthy (and rested) Manu Ginobili will be key to San Antonio’s title chances, but with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan healthy and contributing, they emerge from round one as the clear favorite in the West. Stay tuned to see if they can capitalize.