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NBA: Star trio lead Spurs over depleted Lakers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

San Antonio's star trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 53 points Sunday to lead the Spurs to a 91-79 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in their NBA playoff opener.

Duncan posted the 139th playoff double-double of his career with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

France's Parker added 18 points and eight assists and also made three steals, while Argentina's Ginobili, showing no sign of the hamstring strain that sidelined him late in the regular season, contributed 18 points off the bench.

The result in the first game of the best-of-seven Western Conference series was what many expected after the Lakers lost superstar Kobe Bryant to a torn Achilles tendon the week before the playoffs began.

Spurs point guard Parker said that without Bryant, the Lakers are "a totally different team."

"It's not an excuse," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Bryant's absence. "I thought we had good shots, we've got to knock them down. Especially in the first half, you've got to give San Antonio credit... They hit the big shots."

The Lakers were the last team to clinch a post-season berth. They managed to claim the seventh seed in the West, setting up the clash with San Antonio and avoiding top-seeded Oklahoma City.

But even with point guard Steve Nash back from an extended injury absence, the Lakers clearly have a mountainous task ahead of them.

Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol did what they could. Howard scored 20 points with 15 rebounds and Gasol delivered 16 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

Nash scored 16 points in 29 minutes on the floor, but the Lakers couldn't overcome 18 turnovers and lackluster 3-of-15 shooting from three-point range.

"We can't get discouraged that we lost the first game," Howard said.

"San Antonio did what they were supposed to do tonight. We've just got to come (harder) in the second game. We saw a couple of things that we could have done a lot better, and we'll do a better job in the second game."

Bryant, back home recovering from tendon surgery, was keeping an eye on the proceedings.

"Nothing worse than watching your brothers struggle and u can't do anything about it," he tweeted.

"It's great to have that commentary," D'Antoni dead-panned, drawing a laugh when asked about Bryant's comments. "He wants to be part of this and I don't blame him -- it's good."

The game was the first of two Western Conference series openers on Sunday's slate, with the Thunder hosting the Houston Rockets in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are trying to get back to the NBA Finals for a second straight year, after falling to Eastern Conference champions Miami in last year's championship series.

In the Rockets, they'll face an offensively-minded team eager to make the most of their first playoff appearance after a three-year drought.

Oklahoma City will see a familiar face in the Rockets lineup, as All-Star guard James Harden -- a former favorite of Thunder fans -- has become a key player for Houston since he was traded prior to the start of the season.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130421/nba-star-trio-lead-spurs-over-depleted-lakers-0