There was quite a bit at stake on Tuesday night when the San Antonio Spurs came to Los Angeles. The Lakers, in jeopardy of dropping all the way to the four-slot over the remaining two games, needed a win badly against the Spurs. While seeding in the Western Conference is still up in the air, home court advantage in the NBA Finals is still changing on a nightly basis. The Spurs and Bulls have top overall position, but the Lakers are still wrestling for priority over the Heat and Celtics.
Gregg Popovich decided to rest his “Big 3” starters on Tuesday. And for those that believe in the Lakers’ Hollywood Ending, that scene played out again when the game was tied at halftime, and then tied again halfway through the 4th quarter. It wasn’t until the final minutes when the Lakers were able to squeak out a win against guys that probably all logged season-high minutes.
I don’t think Popovich was in a winning situation before the game even started. What would’ve happened had he started his starters? The Lakers are still the favorites to see them in the Western Conference Finals. He knows he’ll be seeing Los Angeles for six or seven games in a row in the next month or so. Even if his “Big 3” start, would he have shown his hand of cards this close to the playoffs when there was virtually nothing at stake for them? They would’ve run their usual offensive and defensive sets. Nothing fancy. And if he’s running his starters out there just to run a few plays, then what’s the overall point of that? One can understand that the best thing Popovich could last night was sit his main guys. And even then, the most time any Spur logged was 28 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Lakers in a much different situation because of their recent losing streak, went with business as usual, and four players logged over 30 minutes and Pau Gasol ended with 41. I have to admit, I thought the Lakers were going to have this game in control by the end of the 3rd quarter. But that wasn’t the case. They more had this game under control at the end of the 4th quarter. But a win is a win, right? Now just the 2nd and 3rd seeds are at stake and all they have to do is go up to Sacramento, for what will no doubt be an extremely emotional “last game in Sac-Town/let’s go out with a win against those pompous Lakers” game for the Kings, and tally one more win. Yes, a win is a win, but I would like to see the Lakers go up there and hammer a W by halftime with the message of “if we have to share a room with our little brother, the Clippers, then you’re our little sister down the hall in Orange County”. (I am from Orange County, so I say that respectfully to all Orange County natives.)
The Spurs and Lakers expect to see each other in the Western Conference Finals. But should they?
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