Game Preview & Chat: The San Antonio Spurs

Kurt —  January 23, 2008

Records: Lakers 27-12 (3 seed); Spurs 26-13 (6 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.1 (5th); Spurs 111.0 (8th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (6th)(; Spurs 104.4 (4th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Spurs: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Jeremy Richardson, Tim Duncan (they can call him a forward all they want, he plays center)

Lakers Notes: Two points taken from the comments about the win over the Nuggets.

First, not long after Bynum went down, Kwame a. suggested in the comments the Lakers should consider going small at times — Fisher and Farmar as the guards, Kobe at the three. By my count, those three were a +15 when on the court together during the Lakers run at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters against the Nuggets. After the game, kwame a. wrote:

The best lineup we got without Ariza and Drew is: Fish. Jordan (or Sasha), Kobe, Odom, Turiaf. Jordan, Sasha and Fish will keep the court spread with their threat to shoot. Odom and Turiaf will find spots when they move without the ball. We will be able to score, it is on the defensive end (especially the paint) that will be a concern until March.

I think it certainly depends on matchups, but I too would like to see more of that lineup.

The other thing was the change in defensive energy that Turiaf brought to the game. From 81 Witness:

Last night when the Nuggets cut the lead to two (with sorry Walton and Brown dragging the team down) we inserted Farmar and Turiaf, this led to a 14-3 run against the Denver starters.

Let me add to that — to start the game Walton was matched up on Melo and quickly Denver realized that and started isolating those two. When Turiaf subbed in for Walton, the Lakers went on an 11-0 run (that extended to a 22-7 run).

The lesson there — it’s always about the defense with this team.

And the laugh of the day from Pick Axe and Roll:

I never noticed this before, but now that Sasha Vujacic has grown his hair out, and apparently stopped washing it, he looks like Luis Scola’s little brother.

About those Tacos: Carter Blanchard sums up my feelings in the comments:

Has anyone ever actually tried to eat one of those monstrosities? A while back my roommates bet me 20 bucks to eat 10 of them in one sitting. I had never had them before, and I’m not one to back down from a pointless bet, so I figured let’s do this. The first one was the most disgusting thing I’d ever eaten. I was absolutely convinced that there was mustard in it. By the time I got to 3 and a half it became very clear that there was no way I could come close to finishing the challenge. And it wasn’t at all about the quantity, strictly the quality. The lesson: You can put “free” before dog feces and some people will get excited.

Best Wishes To Nene. Get better and get back on the court.

Also, I hope that Carmelo Anthony is back soon.

The Spurs Coming In: The Spurs are in the middle of their traditional “just before the All-Star break swoon.” And by swoon we mean 5-5 in their last 10, 10-10 in their last 20. The Spurs do this every year, it has no bearing on the Spurs you will see in April and beyond.

The big three continue to do well — Duncan is averaging 20 and 13 over the last 10, but his shooting has fallen to 45.8% (down from 50.5% for the season; Ginobli is scoring 20 a game off the bench and is shooting 46.5% from three in the last 10, so stick with him at the arc; and Parker is still too quick for any of our PGs (but he is shooting just 25% from three in the last 10 games, you still want him to be a jump shooter if possible).

One other guy to watch for is Ime Udoka, who has been bringing the defensive energy for the Spurs off the bench. His minutes keep going up, and if Pop is giving you minutes you are doing something right.

Last Time These Two Met: The Lakers picked up a win last month, but that game will look nothing like this game. First, Parker and Duncan sat out for the Spurs, plus Ginobli got in foul trouble and missed much of the fourth quarter. The Lakers were sloppy but got the win anyway. They can’t pull that off tonight.

In a game early in the season the Spurs dominated the Lakers, but this is a different Lakers squad in terms of confidence now, so I’m not taking much from that one either. Plus Matt Bonner had 15 in that game — if that is the Spur that beats you, you were destined to lose that game.

Keys To The Game:One thing to watch tonight is pace — the Lakers want to push it, the Spurs want to slow the game down (the Lakers average almost 9 more possessions per game than the Spurs). If one team can control the tempo, that will be a big advantage.

What the Spurs do on offense is not really complex but very hard to stop — they get the ball inside to Duncan, or through penetration by Parker and Ginobli, then if you double or collapse on defense they kick it out to the three point line where Finley, Barry and Horry (or Bowen in the corner) are waiting to shoot. It works because stopping any of the Big Three is very hard to do one-on-one (the Lakers will really miss Ariza tonight for that reason). Still, Kwame and the rest of the Lakers need to protect the paint first and foremost — the other Spurs can beat you, but make them do it and not Duncan or Parker.

On defense, the Spurs are the best rotating team in the league, so the Lakers shooters are going to have a hand in their face tonight (particularly Fisher, I bet). They still need to hit the shots and make moves when isolated.

Where you can watch: Game time is 6 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9), nationally you get ESPN. My plan is to tune into ESPN at the start, see who the announcers are then make my decision.