The Los Angeles Lakers are going through their lowest point of the season after suffering their sixth consecutive loss on Wednesday, followed by the news of Kobe Bryant’s torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. It won’t get any easier on Friday as the Lakers travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. Los Angeles pulled off the surprising upset the last time these two teams met in Texas, courtesy of some late-game heroics. The Spurs are looking for a bounce back win after losing by 23 last night in Chicago.
Frontcourt: The face of the Spurs franchise, Tim Duncan, continues to do his thing in his 18th NBA season. The 38-year-old is averaging a double-double so far this season, tallying 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game. Although not quite at the same level he once was in his younger days, Duncan is still a major threat on both ends of the floor with his interior defense, post game and high basketball IQ.
The other half of the two towers for San Antonio is Tiago Splitter. The fifth year man out of Brazil won’t typically fill up the stat sheet, but that shouldn’t undermine what he brings to the table. Like virtually every player on the Spurs roster, Splitter is a smart player and a skilled passer, especially out of the high post. He’s also very good at getting open around the basket where his teammates can find him for some easy buckets.
Reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard didn’t play in the December 12 meeting between these two teams, but he’ll be in the lineup this time. Leonard is on the verge of becoming a superstar caliber player in the league, despite being just 23 years of age. He is an elite defender with an offensive game that tends to be underrated by some because of the Spurs’ system that generally spreads the statistical wealth. Leonard is an all-around player that continues to improve each year at an impressive rate.
Backcourt: Point guard Tony Parker continues to play at a high level in his 14th year in the league, although his production has dipped marginally from a season ago. Parker is among the league’s best at getting to his sweet spots on the floor. He usually does so by operating effectively out of the pick and roll, allowing him to get all the way to the basket or to about 15 feet out, where he is an excellent midrange shooter. Look for him to try and break down the Laker defense by attacking the heart of it.
Danny Green gets the start at the shooting guard position for San Antonio, averaging 12.6 points per game. Green can light it up from deep, as he takes 6.1 threes per game and connects on 40.8 percent of his attempts. Manu Ginobili will also see plenty of time off the bench, along with seemingly every active player, since coach Gregg Popovich does a fantastic job of managing minutes.
Keys to Victory:
Look for Open Threes: A big reason that the Lakers were able to get a win against the defending champions last month was their effective long range shooting. They launched 24 threes and made 12 of them. Doing so helped spread out the Spurs defense and created opportunities to attack as well. The Lakers have shot 39 percent from three in wins this season, compared to 33.6 percent in losses. Ball movement and man movement should lead to some open looks from beyond the arc.
Defend the Perimeter: On the other end, San Antonio does a terrific job of spacing the floor with a plethora of shooters. Los Angeles must chase shooters off the line. If they don’t, the Spurs could go on quick runs by knocking down a few consecutive threes that would put the Lakers in a hole and force them to play catch-up.
Bench Production: Another key factor in the Laker win in the last meeting of these teams was the 61 points scored off the bench, led by Nick Young’s 29. The team will need contributions from top to bottom if they hope to pull off another upset on the road and put an end to their six-game losing streak.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-31) at San Antonio Spurs (27-17)
5:30 PM PST, January 23, 2015
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Spurs Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter
Key Reserves: PG: Patty Mills, SG: Manu Ginobili, C: Boris Diaw
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Robert Sacre
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