At the end of a long, frustrating afternoon in the Lone Star State on Sunday, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard came to a meeting of the minds. It was an epiphany of sorts, a realization that no matter how many sideways looks they give the referees, no matter how much they complain or protest or flail their arms in anger, the burden of protecting the basketball falls on them. The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times in their 91-79 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series, and between them Howard and Gasol were responsible for 10 of them. In fact, the two Lakers' big men combined for more turnovers than all the Spurs put together, and itf you're searching for reasons why the Lakers couldn't beat a more-than-vulnerable Spurs team, the turnover column is as good a place as any to start looking. "We have to protect the ball," Gasol said. Which circles us back to Howard and Gasol's awakening. Every time Howard got the ball down low Sunday, the Spurs sent two defenders at him, their arms swiping at the ball trying to knock it away from him. Same thing happened to Gasol. And it worked, as Howard and Gasol continually got the ball stripped away or turned it over with lazy passes out of aggressive double teams. On a different day, in a different building under different circumstances, the Spurs' hostile approach might have resulted in more foul calls.