The Los Angeles Lakers will face off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a nationally broadcasted game, coming off of a narrow 98-95 victory versus the DeMarcus Cousins-less Sacramento Kings. After a fairly rocky start to the season, San Antonio has seemingly found their stride with a roaring (16-6) record, despite Gregg Popovich periodically resting his Big 3. Bottom line is that the Spurs are a title contender once again and will likely remain on cruise control throughout the remainder of the regular season. Don’t expect many minutes tonight from Duncan, Parker and Ginobli.
Frontcourt:35-year-old Matt Bonner has filled in for the injured Tiago Splitter, who finally returned Tuesday night since suffering a serious calf injury back in October. Bonner has never averaged more than 10 points per game in any season throughout his career, but he remains a tremendous threat beyond the three-point arc where he shoots an astounding 42% for his career. He’s an average defender whose primary role is to stretch the floor, creating space for Tim Duncan to operate within the paint.
Much like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan continues to dominate at an advanced age averaging 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in a mere 30 minutes per game. As usual Duncan is the catalyst to San Antonio’s top tier defense, which ranks second in points allowed per game with 94.3. The type of success Duncan has endured is simply unprecedented and it’s even more incredible that he has had the ability to play out his career on his own terms, while maintaining an elite level of play.
The reigning Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, should be back in the starting lineup on Friday night after undergoing an MRI on a bruised right hand that forced him to miss Wednesday’s game vs. the New York Knicks. Leonard is quietly having a career year as his 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game are all career highs, although his shooting is down six percent from last season. Leonard failed to reach a contract extension prior to the October 31st deadline, so every game is vital if he expects to yield that coveted max contract. Defensively, Leonard is amongst the NBA’s elite, it’s just a matter of ironing out his deficiencies on offense at this point.
Backcourt:The sharpshooting Danny Green poses a massive threat to the Lakers’ backcourt as he has the potential to torch his opponent on any given night. Under the tutelage of Popovich, Green has transformed himself from a benchwarmer that was nearly out of the league to an above average two-guard. Green is in a contract year and he is coincidentally averaging a career high 11.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Kobe will certainly have his hands full in guarding the offensive lightning rod.
The Lakers always seem to have issues guarding the 14th year Frenchman Tony Parker. His career numbers (17PPG, 6APG) do not suggest that he is anything more than an average point guard, but Parker is a absolute beast and arguably the best point guard in the NBA today. He’ll never post prolific scoring numbers nor will his assist totals ever crack double digits solely because of the system the Spurs run. San Antonio’s style of play is predicated on team basketball, which in turn skews everybody’s numbers due to the insanely high numbers of passes on each possession. Parker’s knack for penetrating the paint combined with his vast arsenal of runners and floaters make him a deadly force.
Keys to Victory:
High-Percentage Shots: Sounds basic, but the Lakers tend to hoist up ill-advised shots across the board. Yes, Kobe Bryant is the prime suspect of this due to the volume of shots he takes. However, Ronnie Price, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and Jeremy Lin are also guilty of taking foolish shots.
Point Guard Play: Byron Scott has struggled to find consistency at the point guard position as neither Price nor Lin have proved to be capable of being the permanent starter. When facing such an elite defensive team like the Spurs, the point guard is essential in setting up his teammates with the best possible shots.
Defensive Efficiency: It’s no secret that the Lakers are an absolute catastrophe on defense. In fact, Ed Davis is the one and only player with a positive defensive box plus-minus (0.5), meaning no other Laker benefits the team defensively. Basically the Lakers’ defense is bad enough to make even the most offensively challenged teams look unstoppable.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 13-point underdogs against the San Antonio Spurs via Sportsbook.ag.
San Antonio Spurs (16-6) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (6-16)
6:30 PM PST December 12, 2014
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Spurs Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Matt Bonner
Key Reserves: SG: Manu Ginobli PF: Boris Diaw C: Aron Baynes
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Ed Davis
Lakers Practice: Byron Scott Talks Kobe Bryant At The Point Guard