Considering the competitive balance the Western Conference of the NBA has, it should come as no huge shock when a top seed loses a game. But when the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, the number 1 and 2 seeds in the West, both lost their opening playoff games, the basketball world was tipped head over heals.
For the Lakers, the opening game loss by the 2 time defending champs was more than just a defeat, it was blood in the water, a glaring sign of weakness out of the leagues most dominant team the past three years. Phil Jackson led teams simply don't lose game 1's at home yet this time, they did.
"Losing the first game, that put it right back on us," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said. "When we have that sense, everybody goes out and plays a harder game.”
With that mentality that Bynum expressed, the Lakers went out in game 2 and took it to the New Orleans Hornets, winning the game in a tight low scoring affair 87-78. The Hornets managed to contain Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, who contributed a combined 19 points, but failed to stop the rest of the team from rising up and claiming game 2.
"It shows experience and maturity," Lakers super-sub Lamar Odom said. "It shows how we've got better, how the team has grown. It was important for all of us to improve and make an impact."
In San Antonio, it was the return of Manu Ginobli and a return to playoff winning. Ginobli, who missed game 1 with a sprained elbow, returned in game 2 sporting a bulky black brace on his injured arm and promptly put up 17 points in sparking the top seeded Spurs to their first playoff victory of the 2011 postseason.
"It was uncomfortable," Ginobili said of the brace, which he plans to continue wearing through this week and possibly beyond. "But I felt I did OK. I took some risk. I went for some steals and rebounds and it wasn't that I played worried about getting hit or something."
Ginobli is the spark that guides this Spurs offense. He's the player that San Antonio needs when the games are tight and they need that someone to take over and get the W. Without Ginobli, the Spurs are a less dynamic and less dangerous team to face and while he was a little rusty in his return, just having him on the floor lifts the play of those around him.
"Manu's Manu, come on," Grizzlies forward Shane Battier said. "I don't care if he's in a body cast, he's going to be out there and he's going to be a handful to deal with. That's why he's a great player."
While these respective wins by the Spurs and the Lakers are big in not digging themselves early holes, game 3 is going to be huge. They each need the win to take back control of home court and their series's.
The Lakers play game 3 Friday night while the Spurs play theirs Saturday.
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