Lakers Vs. Spurs Preview: L.A. Looks To Stop Kawhi Leonard And Company

Lakers Vs. Spurs Preview: L.A. Looks To Stop Kawhi Leonard And Company

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Luke Walton, Gregg Popovich Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off an 110-93 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. D’Angelo Russell led the team with 29 points and six assists. Jordan Clarkson chipped 14 points of his own. The Lakers struggled on the defensive end as Russell Westbrook finished with a triple-double for Oklahoma City. Today the Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs in a Sunday afternoon matinee.

The Spurs are coming off a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers also on Friday night. Kawhi Leonard finished with 21 points and six assists. The Spurs have dominated the Lakers in recent memory, but with the Lakers completely overhauling the power structure of the team, they have an opportunity to show they will no longer be overlooked if they can get a statement win against a very good team.

Backcourt

Tony Parker and Danny Green hold down the backcourt for the Spurs. Although Parker has played well this season, he has not been as productive as we are accustomed to seeing him. He is averaging 10.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He still can maneuver himself in the lane and make his patented floater over taller defenders. D’Angelo Russell will have to work hard on the defensive to make things difficult for Parker.

Green is most effective as a shooter. He is especially deadly from the three-point line, where he shoots 40.4 percent. If the Lakers can make him put the ball on the floor, then they’ll significantly increase their chances of limiting his effectiveness. His defense should also not be overlooked as he can guard multiple positions well.

Coming off the bench, the Spurs have Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, and Jonathon Simmons. Mills is great in the second unit. He can score and make plays for his teammates very well. Jordan Clarkson will almost have to match Mills’ production if the Lakers want to come out with a win.

Even though Ginobili is past his prime, he can still play quite well. He still knocks down open shots and creates for his teammates. Simmons, on the other hand, is super athletic and can make his presence known in different ways. He is a solid defender that possess good length that can make things difficult for his opposition. He does not provide much offensively but can clean up around the rim very well.

Russell and Nick Young have done a good job for the Lakers in starting roles. Russell will be asked to carry more the scoring load as Lou Williams is no longer on the team. He has shown flashes that he can score well, but he must prove that he can do it consistently. If he can play the way he did against the Thunder, the Lakers a have a better chance of being competitive in today’s game.

Young has been playing really well this season. If the Lakers want to keep up with some of the better teams in the league, he must be able to score the ball. His defense has also been effective all season. He makes his opposition work hard for their shots and today should be no different going up against Danny Green.

With Williams being traded, Clarkson will have to play better than he has off the bench. He is going to have limit his turnovers and be more efficient. The Lakers cannot afford for ill-advised shots and costly turnovers from Clarkson. The newly acquired Corey Brewer should see more playing time today. Even though he should not be counted to supply much offense, he will be expected to play solid defense. He is fast and lengthy enough to keep up with either point guards or shooting guards.

Frontcourt

San Antonio has one of the most potent frontcourts the NBA offers, starting Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol. Leonard has been playing at an MVP level this season, averaging 25.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. While he’s been asked to carry more of the scoring load, he’s still able to defend at an elite level that makes him one of the most versatile players in the league.

Aldridge has also been playing very well this season. He is averaging 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. What makes Aldridge hard to defend is his ability to knock down outside jumpers. By him doing so, he’s able to extend the defense, which allows San Antonio’s guards to penetrate and create easy baskets.

Gasol is enjoying himself another fine season. He is averaging 11.9 points and eight rebounds per game. He is a perfect fit because he provides high basketball IQ, which is important when playing for the Spurs.

David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon come off the bench for the Spurs. Lee is a capable shooter who can make his defender pay if he is left wide open. Dedmon makes his presence known on the glass. When he is on the court, the Lakers must take into account where he is so they can put a body on him.

The lineup of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Tarik Black has been much more effective than one that started most of the season. Ingram has shown flashes of his potential so it is important for him to gain all the experience he can.

Randle has had a good season but struggles with consistency. If he wants to prove that he is going to be a really good player in the league he needs to work hard and show that he can put together a string of good games. Black has shown that he can contribute without providing a lot of offense. He rebounds and defends really well. The team needs him to do more of the same today against a good Spurs frontcourt.

Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, and Luol Deng come off the bench for the Lakers. All give the team a little boost of energy and solid defense when they are on the court. All three need to play well for the Lakers to have a chance to win.

3 Keys to Victory

Limit Turnovers

Even though the Lakers have done a better job of taking care of the ball as the season has gone along, they must minimize their turnovers today. Against a good team like the Spurs, it will cost them if they are careless.

Rebound the Ball

The Lakers currently average 44.3 rebounds per game which ranks 12th in the league. Against the length of Leonard, Aldridge, and Gasol, the Laker bigs must box out their opponent to avoid second-chance points for San Antonio.

Play Better Defense

The Lakers defense this season has been underwhelming. Against the Thunder, on Friday evening they allowed Russell Westbrook record a triple-double that his team score 110 points. The Lakers must play with good defensive intensity to keep the Spurs in-check.

Los Angeles Lakers (19-40) Vs. San Antonio Spurs (44-13)
12:30 P.M. PST, February 26, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Projected Spurs Starting Lineup:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Pau Gasol

Key Reserves: Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, David Lee, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Tarik Black

Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Corey Brewer, Ivica Zubac, Luol Deng