- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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SAN ANTONIO -- If any one thing was established in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Lakers' series against the San Antonio Spurs, it was the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers intend to get the ball inside to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol early, often and always.
"We're inside-out now," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Monday. "We're full blown and we're going to keep doing that."
Howard and Gasol accounted for 28 of the Lakers' 73 shots Sunday (38.4 percent). But they also coughed up 10 of the Lakers' 18 turnovers.
It's a good thing L.A. is committing to Howard, a seven-time All-Star, and Gasol, a four-time All-Star, but the problem is if you go to the well one too many times against a solid, well-coached defensive team such as San Antonio, the predictability hurts you.
"Let's see if we can have a little bit better ball movement before we try to get the ball in, because if we try to fight it too much and force it too much is when the turnovers came in, most of them," Gasol said. "So, we just got to move their defense a little bit better and swing the ball, then try to post the ball up into Dwight or myself. Then it won't be as easy for them to front or make things hard for us."
D'Antoni said the goal for the two practices between Sunday's Game 1 and Wednesday's Game 2 was "cleaning up our offense."
That entails cutting down on the 18 turnovers that led to 14 points for the Spurs, but also shooting the ball better. L.A. shot just 41.1 percent overall from the field, and an anemic 3-for-15 on 3-pointers (20 percent). D'Antoni said Andrew Goudelock, an undersized guard with a legitimate 3-point stroke who was in the D-League a week ago, could also get playing time.
"A lot of it is just not being familiar with what we’re trying to do, putting in new sets, guys not being in the right spots," D'Antoni said. "A lot of it is [the Spurs] are active and they're good. We have to be a little bit smoother in what we're doing in trying to clear out. Again, we're trying to put the ball inside all the time into a tight spot. We got a lot of guys in there, so it's just trying to clean and do a better job. Some of it was we just mishandled the ball. We just got to be a little more careful with the ball."
Gasol was asked to explain exactly what the "new sets" and "wrinkles" that D'Antoni was talking about the Lakers had planned, without giving away too much.
"We're just trying to move the ball and create a couple actions before we dump the ball in the post," Gasol said. "We got to move their defense so the passes are not so forced and it's not so predictable and everybody sees that we're trying to keep that path right now and everybody's looking at it.
"So, we change [the] ball side-to-side on the floor, and that's it. It creates a couple actions where we can create some movement, the defense is not fighting from behind so much and then all of the sudden, boom. Post-up. Boom. Right there. So, that's what we're trying to do -- create some flow and move their defense before we put the ball in the post."
Gasol's "fighting from behind" comment about the Spurs' defenders was a thinly veiled shot at the referees, echoed by D'Antoni, who both felt as if San Antonio players were reaching through and around the Lakers' players' bodies to get deflections that led to their 12 steals.
Part of it is to be expected with the Spurs playing at home, where they were 35-6 during the regular season at AT&T Center with the referees allowing them to set the tone for how much contact is going to be accepted.
Fighting back with force is a tricky tactic. L.A. is already undermanned without Kobe Bryant out there. Should Howard foul out (he came close in Game 1, picking up five), they'll be putting even more pressure on their role players to play over their heads.
Success figures to come as much from playing intelligently as it does from battling hard.
"We just have to be able to flash guys to the high post," D'Antoni said. "We just have to do a better job of getting to our spots earlier, moving the ball, getting in the flow, having the discipline where if we're into a pick-and-roll or whatever that the ball is moved to the back and then in.
"We just can't come down all the time and telegraph where we're going and we have to have some kind of flow to get the ball inside, with the discipline of, 'Hey, we're going in.' I think we'll get that and the more games we play together, the better it will get."
They better get it, or there won't be many more games to play this season.
"We know how to play basketball," Howard said. "We just got to go out there and play hard, and me and Pau have to dominate in the paint, and we should win."