By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It was the worst possible combination for the Los Angeles Lakers as their injury-depleted line-up ran into a scintillating shooting display by the San Antonio Spurs in a lop-sided Game Three on Friday.
With the ailing Lakers missing their top four guards, they were pounded 120-89 on their home court by the second-seeded Spurs to slip 3-0 behind in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
All-Star forward Tim Duncan scored a game-high 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting for San Antonio and guard Tony Parker weighed in with 20 as Los Angeles fell to their biggest home playoff loss in franchise history.
"Parker and Duncan had great games," Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after his team had been outshot by a staggering 61 percent to 43 from the field, sending the home fans streaming for the exits well before the end of the game.
"Duncan was phenomenal. I thought our guys played as hard as they could play but they ran out of gas toward the end. Times are tough right now.
"Pau (Gasol) and Dwight (Howard)... they were trying the best that they could do. Nobody likes it and nobody's happy but I don't fault the effort of the guys or the will that they want to do it."
Gasol completed his first playoff triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists and Howard added 25 points and 11 rebounds but the severely depleted Lakers line-up was always likely to struggle.
With the inspirational Kobe Bryant gone for the season after Achilles tendon surgery, Steve Nash sidelined with back and hip problems, Steve Blake ruled out indefinitely with a strained right hamstring and Jodie Meeks missing due to a sprained left ankle, the Lakers were scrambling for guards.
OFF THE PACE
Though the relatively inexperienced Darius Morris, with 24 points, and Andrew Goudelock, with 20, fared surprisingly well after being elevated into the starting lineup, Los Angeles were unable to keep pace with the four-time NBA champion Spurs.
"We're extremely short-handed," Gasol said. "We've been murdered by injuries and it's tough to overcome that."
Game Four is back at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday and Spaniard Gasol knows the Lakers will have to produce something special if they are to keep the playoff series alive.
"We'll see Sunday how much fight we have in us in order to give ourselves a chance and not have another 30-point loss at home," he said. "It's going to take a collective effort.
"We have three consecutive losses to a team that's feeling more confident and more comfortable and will try to put us away Sunday and close the series. Our backs are against the wall."
For their part, the Spurs will once again aim to show the injury-hit Lakers no mercy as they bid to compete a series sweep.
"I think we're playing fairly well," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Every coach thinks they can play better, that's what we do. We're always looking for ways to improve.
"Whether the team you're playing is whole or banged up, like the Lakers obviously are, the team on court still wants to win.
"We have to bring the energy and the professionalism to play. We've all been in situations where we've lost games when the other side is missing players. The intensity is so high already that everybody is pretty focused."
(Editing by John O'Brien)