Key Reserves: G George Hill, G Gary Neal, F Matt Bonner, F Tiago Splitter, F Antonio McDyess
Injuries: Antonio McDyess (Back, Day to Day)
The Lakers (55-25) loss on Sunday to the OKC Thunder sent them somewhere they haven’t been since the 2006-2007 season- a five game losing streak.
With the lack of energy, passion and pride they have displayed over the last five games, they should have seen it coming.
Now, with the Mavericks victory over the Rockets on Monday night, the Lakers are in an end of the season dog-fight for the second seed in the Western conference playoffs, in which they trail by a 1/2 game. And they have no one to blame but themselves.
If the Lakers first quarter defense Sunday night was indicative of what was to come for the remaining three, they could have just waltzed right off the court, and saved everyone their time and energy. The purple and gold trailed the Thunder for a majority of the game, until a strong fourth quarter burst put them right back into it. Unfortunately, the Lakers were “out-closed” by the young, upstart Thunder squad and ended up losing the game 120-106.
Tuesday’s match up against San Antonio should be a little different, because no one expects the Spurs starters to see very many minutes, as they already have the top seed locked up in the West.
The Spurs (61-19) back court is tailor-made to give the Lakers trouble. Tony Parker and George Hill are both lightning quick who can attack and finish at the rim. Parker has a deadly mid-range game, while Hill can extend his jumper well beyond the three-point arc. Gary Neal is a streak shooter, but once he gets going, he is tough to stop. Neal is shooting 42% from three-point land this season. Manu Ginobili is considered one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and for good reason. Ginobili’s knack for taking and making big shots has led to him being a very dangerous player.
The Spurs front court is solid overall, but should not be a threat to the Lakers. Tim Duncan is a future Hall-of-Famer, but his age is starting to show a bit. Duncan is not as effective as he was in the past, but he can still step out and kiss that 18-footer off the glass. After an extremely disappointing season last year, SF Richard Jefferson has come back with some fire this year. Though Jefferson is only averaging 11.1 points per game, he is playing more defense, and has become a guy who does all the intangibles.
DeJuan Blair is a severely undersized power forward who the Lakers bigs’ should expose. Blair can be a very solid player, but the size and length of the Lakers on the inside should cause him some trouble. F Matt Bonner may have an odd-looking form on his shot, but the ball rips through the net a lot of the time. Bonner does one thing, and one thing only – shoot three’s. The Lakers need to make sure they run him off the three-point line. Tiago Splitter is a very athletic big with a lot of energy. Splitter is still working on his offensive game, however, and usually scores off of offensive rebounds, or in garbage time.
Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Play defense for 48 minutes – Four quarters of hard-nosed defense is what the Lakers need to do night in and night out, especially tonight.
2. If Spurs sit their starters, do not relax – Many people believe Popovich will rest his starters for the majority of the game, if that happens, the Lakers cannot let up.
3. Just play Lakers basketball – Get back to what made you back to back champions, trust the offense, and trust one another.