Lakers need to watch out Spurs' Parker
San Antonio's Tony Parker has emerged as a star. So much so, the Los Angeles Lakers are being barraged with questions of how to slow down the 21-year-old.
Maybe put Kobe Bryant on him, coach Phil Jackson says.
Give Gary Payton some help — and some slack, Bryant says.
Parker shredded Payton, Derek Fisher and, at times, Bryant in the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals, getting 50 points and 14 assists while committing only two turnovers in leading the defending NBA champion Spurs to a pair of 10-point victories.
Games 3 and 4 will be played Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
Payton joined the Lakers this season in quest of his first championship ring. Known as "The Glove" for his outstanding defensive work, the 14-year NBA veteran isn't as quick as he once was — no surprise considering he turns 36 this summer.
"We're just telling him he's still doing the best job on Parker that anybody's doing," Jackson said Friday. "He's the guy who has to stop the ball."
Nevertheless, Jackson said the coaching staff has discussed putting Bryant on Parker more than on a temporary basis. Bryant was voted to the NBA's All-Defensive first team this season.
That being said, the memory of Parker driving around Bryant in the final seconds of the first quarter in Game 1 for an uncontested layup remains vivid.
Seconds later, Parker forced his way past Bryant and another couple defenders for a 3-pointer as the period ended.
"If they give me the call, if they give me the order, I'll do it," Bryant said of the defensive assignment on the smaller, quicker Parker.
"Gary's an excellent defender, they're running a lot of pick and rolls," Bryant quickly added. "For people pointing a finger at Gary, that's not fair. Gary knows how to play pick and rolls. There has to be a team effort.
"You can be the best defender in the world. If you're getting picked, there's nothing you can do about it."
O'Neal hesitated when asked if the time had come for someone to commit a hard foul on Parker instead of allowing him an uncontested layup, which happened several times in the first two games.
"Yeah. Yeah," O'Neal finally replied with a small smile before changing the subject.
"I believe in hard fouls, absolutely," Bryant said. "I don't believe in unnecessary fouls."
The Spurs enter Sunday's game having won 17 straight games — the last 11 of the regular season and the first six of the playoffs.
That equals a franchise record.
The Lakers need to win four of five games to win the series.
"Obviously we're in trouble being down 2-0," Bryant said. "We were in the same situation last year and got out of the hole."
As Bryant said, the Lakers won twice at home to even last year's conference semifinals before the Spurs won Games 5 and 6.
"They're desperate, they'll come out fighting, they're at home," San Antonio's Bruce Bowen said. "Road games require you to focus more because you don't have your home crowd and you don't want to feed their crowd, turn the ball over, get them going with fast breaks and things of that nature.
"So your focus is the highest ever because you understand you don't have a lot of room for mistakes."
The Lakers made the mistakes in the first two games, committing 38 turnovers to 23 for the Spurs. And San Antonio has outscored Los Angeles 48-30 in the fourth quarters.
"I think our issue (in the first two games) was at the offensive end," Lakers forward Karl Malone said. "Defense, yes, but I think our offense let us down."
Regarding the fourth quarters, Malone said: "We've had opportunities. They're a team that capitalizes on all your mistakes."
Only seven teams in NBA playoff history have rallied from 2-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series.
"No time for excuses, no time for sulking," O'Neal said. "It's time to get it done. We have to be perfect at the little stuff. The things we've been doing are simple mistakes at crucial times."
O'Neal had 32 points and 15 rebounds in Game 2, but was awful from the foul line again, going 2-of-7. He's 5-of-20 against the Spurs and 18-of-64 in the playoffs.
"It makes you wonder if going in there (to O'Neal in the latter stages of a game) is going to be fruitful or not," Jackson said. "We believe as the game has gone on, his free throw shooting has gotten better."