With the Los Angeles Lakers saddled without their top player, the San Antonio Spurs drew first blood in their opening- round playoff series with vintage performances from their three best.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 53 points and the Spurs pulled away in the second half to record a 91-79 victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of a marquee Western Conference quarterfinal matchup from the AT&T Center.
Duncan notched his 139th career playoff double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, with Parker adding 18 points and eight assists while coming up with three steals. Ginobili, sidelined by a strained hamstring down the stretch of the regular season, showed little discomfort in putting up 18 points off the bench while connecting on 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range.
"We didn't have a great end to the season, [with] the injuries and just trying to rest guys to be in the right state getting into the playoffs," Duncan said afterward. 'It's good to be here, good to turn it up and good to have everybody into form."
The seventh-seeded Lakers closed out the schedule with eight victories in nine games, including a 91-86 triumph over the Spurs in Los Angeles last Sunday. And despite the return of point guard Steve Nash from an eight-game absence, Los Angeles couldn't overcome Kobe Bryant's unavailability caused by a torn Achilles the two-time scoring champion suffered in the season's third-to-last contest.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol tried their best to carry the load in the Lakers' first playoff game without Bryant on the court since 2000, with Howard amassing 20 points and 15 rebounds and Gasol turning in a 16-point, 16- rebound, six-assist effort.
Nash finished with 16 points in 29 minutes, but the Lakers were plagued by 18 turnovers and a 3-of-15 showing from beyond the arc.
"I was happy with the looks (on offense) we got," said Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni. "I wasn't happy with the turnovers. That was probably the difference in the game."
Los Angeles' retooled lineup struggled mightily early on, shooting just 35 percent and committing five turnovers in the first quarter while falling behind by as many as 12 points during the period. Three of those miscues came during an 11-2 San Antonio run that staked the Spurs to a 24-12 lead with a minute left in the frame.
The Lakers picked it up in the second, predominantly due to the efforts of Howard. The powerful center racked up 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting during the quarter and directed an 8-0 spurt with a pair of buckets, the last a thunderous alley-oop dunk off a Gasol feed that brought Los Angeles within 28-24 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
San Antonio had an answer, however. A 3-pointer from Kawhi Leonard kick- started an 8-2 flurry shortly afterward that put the Spurs back up by double digits, 38-28, with 3:14 prior to the intermission. San Antonio went into the break carrying a 45-37 advantage behind Duncan's 13 points on a 6-of-9 success rate.
Back-to-back baskets from Parker to start the second half pushed the Spurs' lead back to 12, but the Lakers were able to close the gap later on in the third quarter. Metta World Peace accounted for five points on a 9-2 Los Angeles run, and his triple followed by a successful fadeaway by Steve Blake brought the Lakers within 54-50 with just under five minutes to go in the session.
Los Angeles managed just one more field goal over the remainder of the quarter, however, and the Spurs began to create some separation once again.
Up by seven with under two minutes left in the third, San Antonio closed out the period with a 10-4 surge to regain a double-digit cushion. The final eight points came from Ginobili, who drained a pair of treys in the final minute to send the Spurs into the fourth quarter up by a 70-57 count.
"You see what he does for us," said Duncan of Ginobili. "He's a huge spark for us. Obviously he's not playing as many minutes as you want him to play right now trying to work back into it, but every time he's out there he makes plays."
The Lakers never seriously threatened the rest of the way, with San Antonio's lead reaching a high of 16 points after back-to-back treys by Danny Green and Matt Bonner made the score 84-68 with four minutes left.
Bryant last missed a postseason contest in Game 3 of the 2000 NBA Finals against Indiana, sitting out due to a sprained ankle ... The Lakers are 4-9 in their previous 13 opening-round series when failing to win Game 1, compared to a 34-1 mark when prevailing in the first game ... The teams are meeting for the 12th time in the postseason but first since the 2008 West finals, won by the Lakers in five games. Los Angeles advanced in both previous matchups held in the first round (1986, 1988) ... The Spurs took two of three encounters with Los Angeles during the regular season, with all three games decided by five or less points ... Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday in San Antonio.