The Lakers really might have a blessing in disguise with the injury to Kobe Bryant. The Lakers star is still uncertain for tonight’s contest, and will be a game-time decision for the sixth straight game. The team is in their final five games of the season, and would seem to be falling without their star player. However, it has been quite on the contrary. Bryant has exchanged the ball for a role as a Lakers coach, perhaps foreshadowing a coaching career in the future. Players such as Ramon Sessions have described Kobe’s role as being influential to the team.
Tonight the team re-visits with a Spurs team they blitzed without Kobe just last Wednesday. They meet for their sole meeting at Staples Center, and for the second time of three scheduled contests, with the last coming on Friday, marking three games in nine days with their rivals from San Antonio. The Spurs have clinched the Southwest division, and with a victory tonight could shutout any hopes the Lakers might have at catching them for the second seed.
Frontcourt: The venerable Tim Duncan is a master of the midrange bank shot. If anybody could be attributed to being the best at it, I would nominate Duncan, he rarely misses it. He is a good rebounder, and a smart team player. He still has something left on the defensive end, but it isn’t much due to a loss of mobility. He can keep up with you, but won’t dominate. He racked up 14 points, and three blocks against the Lakers.
In just 13 minutes of action DeJuan Blair was extremely limited, taking two shots, and missing both. He was held scoreless, but contributed with four rebounds and two assists. Blair is a freakish athlete for his size, and a great rebounder, but a terrible finisher. His defense is hampered by his lack of size, as DeJuan stands just 6’7″.
Another part of the Spurs shut down was Kawhi Leonard, who has seen a spike in his production during the month of April, where he averages just 5.0 points per game, this versus 11.1 that he averaged last month. On Wednesday night he was held to 1-of-4 shooting, and two points. He grabbed five boards, but that comes as no surprise given that he is an excellent rebounder.
Backcourt: Even Tony Parker was held in check, shooting 2-of-12 for just four points, and dishing out eight assists. This is unlike Parker, who has spent many seasons frustrating the Lakers. It is likely that the team’s funk may have been derived from Parker’s off-night. Tony excels at penetrating the lane, but has just a subpar jumper. He is learning to pass better, but still is a score-first guard. His defense is still quite superb.
Turning in one his greatest games of the season was Daniel Green, who was able to pour in 22 points for the Spurs, a bit over a quarter of the team’s output for the evening. It buckled down to the Lakers playing an amazing all-around game, sticking to their game plan, and allowing the weakest threat to take over, shutting down the rest. Otherwise Green is a poor ball-handler with a good outside shot.
Los Angeles Lakers (39-22) at San Antonio Spurs (43-16)
7:30 PM PST, April 17, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: TNT, Prime Ticket
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Lakers Last Five: 4-1, W vs DAL, W vs DEN, W @ SA, W @ NO, L @ PHX.
Spurs Last Five: 3-2, W @ GS, W vs PHX, W vs MEM, L vs LAL, L @ UTA.
Spurs Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Daniel 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 74-70. The Lakers have won their last three meetings including a 98-84 victory last Wednesday in San Antonio.
- The Lakers are 4-1 without Kobe Bryant, who remains a game-time decision, and in the meantime has taken the role of Coach Kobe, drawing up plays and passing suggestions on the sidelines.
- With their 4-0 sweep of the defending champion Mavericks, the Lakers become the first team to sweep the reigning champion of the league since the Orlando Magic did it to the Miami Heat in the 2006-07 season.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Guard the Three-Ball
The Spurs shot 54.2 percent from long distance, and still took a 14-point defeat. Limiting the three-ball will negate any runs the Spurs might attempt to make.
The Spurs as a team grabbed 33 rebounds. Andrew Bynum alone accounted for half of the Lakers 60 boards. Often the team who wins the battle on the boards is the team that reigns victorious.
– Settle them Down
Sure they might be shutting it down for the playoffs, but the Spurs will not take any home loss to the Lakers lightly. In fact they will be looking forward to returning the favor. A victory by the Lakers keeps them alive for the second spot in the West. After all these two teams will do it again on Friday.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 103, Spurs 94
Worst-Case: Spurs 103, Lakers 101