Most of us watched the opening game of the Spurs-Lakers playoff series to understand just what Los Angeles did or did not amount to as a postseason team.
On Sunday, in a 91-79 win, San Antonio announced that the real meaning of the game had nothing to do with the Lakers and everything to do with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and their perennially underappreciated team.
Forget the season-long underachieving Lakers, a team now without Kobe Bryant and therefore with a version of Dwight Howard gleefully the man of the moment for the purple and gold. The real story, the real lesson, was this: When healthy the San Antonio Spurs are a Western Conference team fully capable of making a run to the Finals and perhaps the most intriguing opponent for the Eastern Conference’s big-time favorite, the Miami Heat.
While Howard and Pau Gasol combined for 36 points and 31 rebounds Sunday, it was the Spurs' starting lineup and now-healthy sixth man that made the biggest statement.
Duncan, Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green started only 31 of the Spurs' 82 regular-season games this season, according to NBA.com, a telltale reminder this team has suffered its own injuries and uncertainties. Ginobili, the team’s star sixth man, played in just 60 games.