SAN ANTONIO – There were many tweets of frustration, strategy and encouragement from @KobeBryant during the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff series opening loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. This wasn't just any Lakers fan. It was the verified account with 2.2 million followers from the star who is sidelined the rest of the season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
Bryant was rooting hard while offering suggestion after suggestion to his Lakers who couldn't hear his cyber voice as they lost 91-79 in Game 1. But NBA fans on their phones, computers or tablets heard him loud and clear, even though he is watching from afar since he currently can't travel with the team.
When told that Bryant tweeted several times that the Lakers should post more, coach Mike D'Antoni rolled his eyes before saying, "It's great to have that commentary."
D'Antoni followed up by stating, "He's a fan right now. You guys put a little bit more importance on that kind of fan. But he's a fan. He wants to be part of it, so that's good."
Bryant tweeted in response to D'Antoni. "A fan?? Lol."
The Lakers have looked lost offensively since Bryant suffered the injury on April 12. They shot 38.5 percent from the field in a 91-86 win over the Spurs on April 14, the Lakers' first game without Bryant. Los Angeles shot 36.7 percent from the field during a 99-95 regular-season finale win over the Houston Rockets, who outside of Omer Asik, are a defensively challenged team.
[Related: Is Kobe's tweeting annoying Lakers coach?]
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had a brighter forecast once Steve Nash returned to the lineup, saying "Our offense will be better when he's back. That's the area we probably need the most help in."
Two epidural shots played a major role in helping Nash get back on the floor Sunday after missing all of April with hamstring and hip injuries. D'Antoni put Nash in the backcourt with Steve Blake while sending Jodie Meeks to the bench. But the Nash addition didn't work as the Lakers scored fewer than 80 points for just the third time this season.
Los Angeles shot 41.1 percent from the field, missed 12 of 15 3-point attempts and allowed 14 points off 18 turnovers. Dwight Howard took only 12 shots while his teammates tested the rim's strength with their deep misses.
"We had 18 turnovers and that really hurt us," D'Antoni said. "Some of that was turning down shots that were open and trying to force it in a little bit too much. We have to balance and we have to be able to clean up some things to get the ball in a little better."
Nash expects to play in Game 2 on Wednesday, but cautioned that he needs to see how his body responds. He can't have another epidural shot for another three weeks. The 39-year-old had 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field, three assists and one turnover in 29 minutes.
"I felt OK, not great, but good enough to get through the game," Nash said.
The Lakers lose 27 points and six assists per game without one of the NBA's greatest scorers ever in Bryant. Spurs guard Tony Parker described the Lakers as a "totally different team" where "everything" is going through Pau Gasol and Howard. Blake, Bryant's starting replacement, scored 12 points, three assists and turned the ball over three times.
Not having Bryant is a great excuse for an early playoff exit. D'Antoni, however, refuses to use that card.
"We have enough," D'Antoni said. "But again, we had good shots and we have to knock them down."
The Lakers' loss of their superstar is the social media world's gain as Bryant became the center of the attention despite being far from the Alamo. He said on Twitter he doesn't want to be a distraction. Too late.
"I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself. Not my intention, just bored I guess #notagain," Bryant tweeted.
Well, at least not until Game 2, @KobeBryant.
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