The Lakers and Spurs will meet for the third and final time this regular season, all in a nine-day period. Both teams are playing very solid basketball, combining to go 9-1 in their last five games. That lone defeat was a Spurs victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night, a 112-91 drudging of the Lakers, who have been without Kobe Bryant for seven games now. The team is 5-2 in that period. Might tonight finally be the evening that Bryant returns? Yet again the decision will be made just before tip-off.
With three games left in the season the Lakers may not have a much tougher slate ahead where positioning is concerned. Sunday the team returns home for it’s season-finale at home against the Thunder. A half-game separates the Lakers and the Clippers. Yes, the team holds the tie-breaker, but cannot rely on that alone to secure the third spot in the West, especially with the Clippers playing their best basketball of the season. As a three-seed the Lakers could play either Dallas or Denver. But a drop to the four would pit them against Memphis. Regardless, a matchup with the Spurs or Thunder looms in the second-round, with home-court lying with the opposing team.
Frontcourt: Clearly Tim Duncan has a lot left in the tank, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds in Tuesday’s victory. The bank-shot artist was just one of the many players that pulled a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like switch from last week to this. DeJuan Blair sat out the last game per coach’s decision, but played on Wednesday night in San Antonio’s victory over the Kings, scoring nine points and securing five rebounds. Keeping quiet was Kawhi Leonard, who’s absence may result in a loss of minutes, and could ultimately factor in the Spurs chemistry come playoff-time.
Backcourt: After being held in check during the first meeting, Tony Parker let loose, scoring 29 points and dishing 13 assists on 14-of-20 shooting. He helped to cultivate an 18-0 run alongside Danny Green, whose back-to-back three-pointers cemented the momentum in favor of the Spurs. He finished the evening shooting 4-for-5, scoring 11 points.
Los Angeles Lakers (40-23) at San Antonio Spurs (45-16)
6:30 PM PST, April 20, 2012
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Lakers Last Five: 4-1, W @ GS, L vs SA, W vs DAL, W vs DEN, W @ SA.
Spurs Last Five: 5-0, W @ SAC, W @ LAL, W @ GS, W vs PHX, W vs MEM.
Spurs Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: DeJuan Blair
C: Tim Duncan
Key Reserves: F Boris Diaw, G Manu Ginobili
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Spurs by a margin of 74-71. The teams have split two games, both winning on the road.
- Pau Gasol recorded his fifth-career triple-double in Wednesday’s victory over Golden State, scoring 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing 11 assists.
- The Spurs lead the Western Conference with 20 road victories, trailing only the Bulls, who have 22.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
The Tony Parker of last week brought the Spurs down in San Antonio, but reverted back to normal in Los Angeles. The game will have a playoff-feel to it, especially with the teams meeting thrice in just nine days.
Grab the Boards
A 37-37 tie on the boards might not have told the story as the Spurs blitzed the Lakers, but it was far from the advantage they gained a week ago. Andrew Bynum could single-handedly take San Antonio down, and alongside Pau Gasol it should be easier than it looks.
Pray for Kobe
They may be 5-2 without their superstar, but the last thing the Lakers need in a playoff matchup is an ice-cold shooter throwing up bricks. I would say that this is the perfect time for 24 to make his return, basking in the final three games, and making his case for MVP.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 110, Spurs 107
Worst-Case: Spurs 107, Lakers 92