Saturday May 24th, 2008

The funereal procession out of the San Antonio locker room began about thirty minutes after the final buzzer of its 101-71 loss Friday. With the media clustering around the door, Spurs center Fabricio Oberto emerged first and pushed through the crowd, shaking his head in frustration as he pored over a stat sheet.

A few minutes later Tony Parker stepped out. Parker politely declined a reporter's interview request before shuffling toward the other end of the hallway, a glazed look painted on his face.

Yes, the San Antonio Spurs are in trouble and, for perhaps for the first time in the 2008 playoffs, they know it.

Game 2 of the Western Conference finals was a thorough and complete beatdown. The vaunted Spurs defense allowed the Lakers to shoot a blistering 54.9 percent from the field, while San Antonio connected on 34.5 percent of its own shots. Among the other lowlights for the defending champs: a 26.1 three-point percentage (including an 0-for-4 night from Manu Ginobili), a 50.0 free throw percentage (including an 0-for-4 effort from Tim Duncan) and a 44-36 disadvantage on the backboards.

There were literally no silver linings for San Antonio. Ginobili (2-of-8 overall) is struggling to play through ankle and finger injuries that are serious enough that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich considered sitting the Sixth Man award winner Friday. "We knew it would catch up this game, not last game," said Popovich.

After a solid Game 1, Parker struggled mightily in the face of constant pressure from Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar and seemed to lose faith in his jump shot as the game progressed.

"I thought Tony was probably a little tentative tonight," said Popovich. "He went to the basket fine, but I thought he had shots and he missed a couple and I thought he just backed away from it. He didn't have the confidence, for whatever reason."

And while Duncan was his usual steady self (12 points, 16 rebounds), he received virtually no help on the glass: Oberto (two rebounds) and Kurt Thomas (one) were non-factors in Game 2, while Lakers forward Lamar Odom was one of five Lakers to pull down at least four rebounds.

"We have to do a better job of helping Timmy out," said Thomas. "We know he can't do it by himself."

While the Spurs continued to speak like they were not overly concerned about falling into an 0-2 hole for the second series in a row -- "We're confident," said Thomas; "It is what it is," said Duncan. "We're either going to turn it around and make this thing into a series or not" -- San Antonio is not facing the same kind of fight as they were with New Orleans, a talented but inexperienced team that lacked a closer the likes of Kobe Bryant, who once again validated his claim that he can "get off anytime," scoring 22 points in a little over three quarters of play. They know they have no answer for Odom, who licks his chops every time he sees Oberto or Thomas chasing him out on the perimeter.

Whatever faith the Spurs have in themselves, they have to realize that climbing out of this hole against the Lakers will be much more difficult than bouncing back against New Orleans. And with only one day to try to figure out the Lakers, the prognosis for their survival is grim.

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