Oh Kobe, the team needs you more than you think. Bryant is out for tonight’s first (yes, you read that right) encounter against the San Antonio Spurs, a likely second-round opponent if the standings stay true. The Spurs stand only one game behind the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, but oppose the Lakers three times in Los Angeles’ final eight games. While the Lakers still have a chance to catch the Spurs, the outlook is not so good, as they lie six games behind San Antonio. The task seems highly unlikely, but not impossible. The Spurs just snapped an 11-game winning streak, but rested key contributors Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Rest assured that all three players will be ready to go for this major playoff test.
Frontcourt: The changing of the guard may be underway yet again in San Antonio. Nine years ago it was David Robinson passing the torch to Tim Duncan. Duncan has reigned supreme in San Antonio, consistently making them contenders. This year his numbers have slightly improved from 2011, but coach Gregg Popovich clearly understands that his time is coming.
This was evident in a game played by the Spurs a few weeks ago when Popovich held Duncan out of the game, stating that the reason for missing the game was his age. He was too old. While the statement was quite funny, it furthers proves that his time is coming to an end in the NBA.
That torch is being prepared for DeJuan Blair. While Blair is not a superstar by any means, he is productive and durable. To become more effective, Blair will need to work on his free throw percentage, a number that has dipped to 58.8.
Perhaps the torch can be passed on to two players as San Antonio was very fortunate to land an exceptionable rookie in Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State. His transition to the NBA has been excellent, and he is averaging 8.0 points with 5.2 rebounds.
Backcourt: It seems as if Tony Parker has been in the league forever, but he is still only 29 years-old. It is fitting that Parker is from France where the wine flows freely. Parker, like wine, gets better with age. This season he is averaging 19.1 points per game and a career-best 7.6 assists. Parker is a very smart player who can finish. Most importantly though, he makes that offense flow. He is paired with a pleasant surprise for the Spurs in Danny Green, a former second round pick out of North Carolina. Green signed a free agent contract in 2010 with San Antonio and never looked back. Despite only seeing eight NBA games last season, Green worked hard and eventually made his return to the big-time. This season he is scoring 8.8 points and grabbing 3.6 rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers (36-22) at San Antonio Spurs (40-15)
5:30 PM PST, April 11, 2012
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Lakers Last Five: 3-2, W @ NO, L @ PHX, L vs HOU, W @ LAC, W vs NJ.
Spurs Last Five: 4-1, L @ UTA, W vs UTA, W vs NO, W @ BOS, W @ CLE.
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 73-70. The Lakers won their last two meetings.
- The Lakers’ resiliency pieced together a 15-2 run to knock off the New Orleans Hornets in their latest victory.
- The Spurs lead the league in three-point shooting, converting on 38.7 percent of their attempts.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Guard the Three-Ball
The top team in the league is going to throw up as many tries as they can knowing full-well that some will go in. If they get on fire, it will be a long night.
– Don’t Take them Lightly
Sure they have been resting their starters, but the team has to understand the anytime the Lakers go into San Antonio, it will be a playoff-like atmosphere. For years the Lakers have broken the hearts of the Spurs and their fans. A victory tonight gives the Spurs a much harder task in catching Oklahoma for the top seed out west.
– Make Minimal Mistakes
The Spurs excel in finesse. In fact, the Spurs prosper at just about anything they put their minds to. On paper it may be all San Antonio, but everybody knows that the Lakers can never be counted out.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 106, Spurs 103
Worst-Case: Spurs 114, Lakers 100