Top reason you donâ€™t want to live in San Antonio: Hard to beat this one.
Playoff preview? Maybe, not likely, but maybe. Right now the Lakers are the seven seed 2 games ahead of Sacramento, who has cooled faster than Schwarzeneggerâ€™s re-election chances. That means Phoenix is the odds-on choice for the Lakers first-round opponent, but itâ€™s not impossible that the Lakers could slip to eighth and San Antonio could hang on to the one seed.
Tony Parker sits? Parker did not play Tuesday night when the Spurs beat the Clippers due to a bruised right shin. Former Pomona-Pitzer coach Greg Popovich said Parker may miss two or three games, but then again could play against the Lakers. What do you think matters more to him: Having Parker play a relatively-meaningless game against the Lakers or be as healthy as possible for the playoffs?
Somehow, I doubt weâ€™ll see Parker. Hopefully, weâ€™ll still see Eva Longoria.
Speaking of the Clippers: I know, we try to ignore that other team in Staples (especially when they have the better record, one of the signs of the apocalypse), but I did want to point out that there is a great new blog for the team out there, Clippersblog. Expect quality as itâ€™s from Kevin Arnovitz, the Slate magazine Fray editor who is a season ticket holder. (One must assume because he canâ€™t get Laker tickets.)
If no Parker, how much do the Laker chances improve? No Tony Parker means more Nick Van Exel and Beno Udrih. Can Smush Parker stay in front of either of them?
Against the Clippers, Beno got the start but Nick the quick played more minutes. Both have torched the Lakers off the bench this year â€” Beno is shooting 71.4% (eFG%) and Van Exel 50%. The good news is those are some small sample sizes, so maybe things will be different when they start.
The bigger problem has been Manu Ginobili, who has averaged 18.4 points on 69.4% shooting in three games against the Lakers. Then thereâ€™s Michael Finley, who has averaged 16.3 points per game on 71.3% shooting in those same three games. Oh, and they have some guy named Duncan too thatâ€™s supposed to be pretty good.
That said, the Lakers beat the Spurs earlier this month in one of their better games of the season. The Lakers took control of that game in the second quarter when Kwame Brown was on the floor (just trying to come up with some positives here).
The Lakers coming in: The Lakers bothered to play 24 minutes of defense against the Hornets Sunday, but that was enough. Theyâ€™ll have to do better against San Antonio.
The few days off couldnâ€™t have come at a better time as the Lakers have an assortment of small injuries â€” not enough to keep guys out of games but enough to slow them. Kwameâ€™s hamstring, Kobeâ€™s back, Smushâ€™s thumb, Bynumâ€™s ankle, all needed a little time off.
Standing up to Kobe: The LA Times Laker blog (which is not so much a â€œblogâ€ in my mind as just a couple other beat reporters posting online, but thatâ€™s a discussion for another day) had an interesting interview with assistant coach Brian Shaw yesterday. Read the whole thing, but the part I thought relevant was how the veteran team Lakers â€” Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Ron Harper â€” used to get in Kobeâ€™s face when he did something wrong, but that this younger team just meekly defers to him:
Is that something that’s especially important now that there are younger guys on the team, to still have guys around who will say, “You’re wrong.”
BS: It is, and we don’t have any. I don’t think we have one guy on the team who will stand up to him and say, if they were open and he shot the ball with three guys on him, “Hey, pass me the ball.” You should have done this, or you should have done that. We don’t have those types of personalities on this team.
Key to a Laker win: Lamar Odom. Kobe will get his points but having Bruce Bowen shadow him slows Kobeâ€™s efficiency â€” he is shooting 48.5% (eFG%) on the season but just 41.5% against the Spurs. Still, heâ€™s averaging 32.3 points per game.
But Lamar Odom is averaging 17.7 points on 63.4% shooting plus 10.4 boards per game â€” he is the match up the Lakers need to exploit. Also, Kwame is going to have to have another good defensive and rebounding game, basically do what he has done recently but now against better opposition.
That, and they need to play defense. Especially on the perimeter, where the Spurs are both well spaced and pass the ball very well. Oh, and you might want to keep an eye on Bowen in the corner.