Western Conference Showdown: Lakers Visit San Antonio

Written by: Devin Ugland

Spurs Projected Starting Line-up:

PG – Tony Parker
SG – Manu Ginobili
SF – RIchard Jefferson
PF – Tim Duncan
C – DeJuan Blair

Key Reserves – G George Hill, SG Gary Neal, PF Matt Bonner

Injuries – none

Lakers Injuries – F Matt Barnes (knee), PG Derek Fisher (strained elbow)

The Lakers (44-19) head into San Antonio Sunday afternoon with revenge on their minds. Earlier this season at Staples Center, the Spurs (51-11) beat the Lakers on a tip-in at the buzzer by Antonio McDyess. Lamar Odom took full responsibility for not boxing out McDyess, and if it comes down to the wire again, expect Lamar to put a body on somebody.

NBA purists like to refer to Tim Duncan as the ‘Big Fundamental,’ but with Duncan toward the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, the younger Spurs players have been forced to take on that same mantra. The team of big and small fundamentals have put together a season that wonít soon be forgotten. With a 51-11 record, San Antonio has the best record in the NBA through 62 games, and with a Friday night freezing of the Heat, they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

The scariest part of this Spurs squad is they’re dominating the league with no top-tier superstar. Duncan is considered one of the best power forwards in the history of the game, but at age 34, he is averaging career lows in points and rebounds. Most of Duncan’s impact will come at the defensive end, where he can apply his savvy veteran post-defense.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili lead a solid 1-2 back court punch for the Spurs. Parker, who was sidelined for two games recently with a calf injury, has since returned and had a solid game in a rout of Miami this past Friday recording 15 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. The Lakers always struggle to contain Parker, his speed in transition and explosive first step, combined with his ability to finish at the rim are very dangerous for any team, not just the Lakers.

Ginobili leads the Spurs in scoring (18 ppg) and steals (1.6 spg). His intangibles are what make him such a threat. He can slash to the rim, he can kill you with the spot up or step back jumper, and he is the first to dive on the floor for a loose ball. Either Artest or Kobe will check Ginobili and they must stay out of foul trouble.

San Antonioís role players could win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor(s). C DeJuan Blair provides non-stop energy and hustle, while rookie G Gary Neal, G George Hill and veteran forwards Richard Jefferson and Matt Boner give the Spurs a nice scoring punch from behind the arc. Donít forget about F Antonio McDyess either, Lamar knows all too well what can happen if he is left alone.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have been on a tear since the All-Star break, winning six straight. They received a bit of a scare when Derek Fisher got locked up with Bobcats C Kwame Brown that resulted in an elbow injury, he is listed as day-to-day. The purple and gold were expecting the long-awaited return of F Matt Barnes friday against Charlotte, but Barnes tweaked his knee in pre-game warm-ups and the Lakers decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons, he is also listed as day-to-day.

Laker fans can expect another hard fought, low scoring game just like the first meeting between these two teams.

Three Keys to a Laker Victory:

1. Pound the ball to whoever Blair is guarding – Blair is a solid defender, but at 6’7″, he will have to guard either Bynum or Gasol, and the Lakers must exploit that size advantage from the opening tip.

2. Corral either Parker or Ginobili – Both these guys like to get out in transition and attack the rim, but both of them can’t have big games. If one is limited in production, a win will be much easier to come by.

3. BOX OUT – The Spurs stole a win on the Lakers home court because of this reason. Find a guy, put a body on him and limit San Antonio to one shot.

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