SAN ANTONIO (AP)—All the Los Angeles Lakers have done is protect home court.
It’s how well they did it that has given the San Antonio Spurs reason to worry about protecting their own.
“We got to really step up, especially starting with me, and try to get those two games at home,” San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili said after his team’s Game 2 loss on Friday. “It’s going to be really difficult because now they built confidence. They’re playing great, so it’s going to be even harder now. But we still believe.”
After the Lakers demonstrated their composure behind MVP Kobe Bryant to rally from a 20-point deficit for a narrow Game 1 victory, they routed the Spurs in Game 2. Holding San Antonio to 34.5 percent shooting, Los Angeles essentially had the win in hand before the last quarter.
“I think the common denominator, bottom line, really isn’t about Xs and Os,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the 101-71 loss. “We have to have more people playing better.”
The Lakers outperformed the defending champions in just about every category. They shot nearly 55 percent from the field, boasted five players with double-digit scoring and outrebounded San Antonio 44-36.
Game 3 is Sunday and Game 4 is Tuesday in San Antonio.
The Spurs are 6-0 at home this postseason, winning by an average of 10.5 points. They blew the first big opportunity they had to steal a game in Los Angeles, but have a chance to regroup and even the series at home.
“They’ll sleep in their own beds. They’ll be much more energized,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “They’re such an experienced team. Their coaching staff will make adjustments. You just can’t comprehend how much of a difference the home court makes in the playoffs to teams. That could be a whole different story for us tomorrow.”
The Lakers are 3-2 on the road in the playoffs. They swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round and eliminated the Jazz in six games, finishing with a win in Utah.
“We still have a championship club we have to go through in that situation,” Jackson said. “They have really played well on their home floor since it was built. You can’t compare the noise with Utah, but it gets pretty loud. They’re going to be very precise in what they do. They’re going to come out and play with purpose.”
If recent history is any guide, the Spurs can take heart.
After getting blown out in the first two games in New Orleans by nearly 20 points each time, San Antonio clawed its way back to stretch the Western Conference semifinals to a Game 7 it won to advance.
Only 14 of the 222 teams to lose the first two games in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series have come back to win. But San Antonio is among those 14 teams.
“You have to go into a real hostile environment and try to win a game,” Bryant said. “Certain areas, we have to minimize open looks. Those are shots they’re not going to miss next game. … They’re going to come ready to play.”
Still, San Antonio has new and lingering issues this round. There is just one day of rest between each game this series—a far cry from the nearly four days off the aging Spurs had before playing Game 7 in New Orleans.
“I saw some fatigue in San Antonio,” Jackson said Saturday.
And Ginobili, the team’s resident spark plug whether he comes off the bench or appears in the starting lineup, has a lingering ankle injury and has yet to produce in this series.
The team’s leading scorer during the regular season had just 17 points on combined 5-of-21 shooting in the first two games.
Ginobili said after the first game that the ankle wasn’t an excuse for his performance, but Popovich said after Game 2 there had been “some thought of shutting him down.”
The Lakers don’t think Ginobili’s struggles will last.
“He’s a huge key to the success they’ve had,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. “If he’s not playing his best because of injury or another reason, that obviously works to our favor. We don’t expect that to continue. We expect him to play better, starting (Sunday).”
Ginobili and the Spurs can only hope Fisher is right.
AP Sports Writer John Nadel in El Segundo, Calif., contributed to this report.