LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant was replaced by an NBA D-Leaguer signed 12 days ago. A second-year pro who barely played for long stretches of the season filled in for Steve Nash.
The injury-plagued Lakers' starting lineup has been springing leaks all season, and this patchwork effort wasn't nearly enough to stop the San Antonio Spurs from pushing Los Angeles to the brink of summer.
Tim Duncan had 26 points and nine rebounds, Tony Parker had 20 points and seven assists, and the Spurs beat the Lakers 120-89 in Game 3 on Friday night, the worst home loss in Los Angeles' lengthy postseason history.
A largely silent Staples Center watched San Antonio bully the Lakers to the precipice of first-round playoff elimination for the first time since 2007. The short-handed Lakers played without their top four guards due to injury, and the Spurs posted their biggest win of a series thoroughly controlled by coach Gregg Popovich's playoff-tested club.
The Lakers have no answers for this test, and they're 48 minutes away from flunking. Game 4 is Sunday night.
"It's been a very tough year, but we're not going to make any excuses, and we're not going to quit," Dwight Howard said. "We're not going to hold our heads down because of the things that have happened this season."
Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added his first career playoff triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, but the Spurs barely seemed to notice. Andrew Goudelock scored a career-high 20 points in his first playoff start, and fellow starter Darius Morris scored 12 of his 24 points in the blowout fourth quarter.
"We've been murdered by injuries, and it's tough to overcome that," Gasol said. "We're extremely short-handed."
With Bryant and Nash joined by Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake on the injured list, the Lakers started Goudelock and Morris. The young guards didn't play poorly, but they weren't enough to overcome Duncan's dominance and Parker's continued move back to top form.
The Lakers exceeded their 29-point home loss to Portland on May 22, 2000, the previous worst home defeat for the 16-time NBA champion franchise. Staples Center's lower bowl was half empty in the final minutes, an unfamiliar sight in an arena used to celebrating championships.
"The first half, we gave everything we had, and it obviously wasn't enough," Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought our guys played as hard as they can play."
San Antonio led throughout the final 44 minutes, going up by 18 in the first half and 25 early in the fourth quarter with its smooth, flexible offense. Tiago Splitter limped to the Spurs' locker room late in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle, but not much else went poorly for San Antonio.
Continue reading this story on the...