Preview and Chat: The San Antonio Spurs

Kurt —  April 13, 2008

Records: Lakers 55-25 (1 seed, tie); Spurs 54-25 (2 seed, tie)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.7 (3rd); Spurs 108.9 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.3 (9th); Spurs 103.5 (3rd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Spurs: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto

Lakers Notes: I’m not sure I thought, even with Pau back, the Lakers could get the one seed back. And, as Goo said in the comments, I feel like I need a shower after pulling for the Kings. But here they are — win out and the odds of a good first-round matchup improve. They do not control their own destiny (a three-way tie with Houston and NO is possible, even if it is not likely) but they control their own games. I’m not that worried about getting Kobe and the other starters a little extra rest down the stretch because of how drawn out the first round of the playoffs is.

If the Lakers play defense like they did in the first half against the Hornets, they can beat anyone. Fisher did a better job staying in front of Paul than I thought he could. The Lakers’ rotations, particularly from Odom and Pau were sharp. The Lakers were aggressive on the ball and their doubles were hard and smart, that led to turnovers and fast-break opportunities. The Lakers attacked Paul and Chandler on the offensive end, not letting them play half the court. It was, in my humble opinion, the best half of basketball the Lakers have played this year.

But, inconsistency reared its ugly head in the second half, as it has all season for the Lakers. They can’t do that today, or starting next weekend in the playoffs.

By the way: If you make a comment during the game and you don’t see it quickly, it got held for moderation (only some do, as pulled aside by a spam filter). And, rather than moderating comments I’ll be downing Dodger Dogs and seeing if Chad Billingsley can get that 9.64 ERA into double digits. I’ll be watching the Lakers on delay, so know I won’t be approving comments during the game. One of the other moderators may pitch in if they can, but just wanted everyone to have a heads up.

Spurs Coming in: The Lakers catch a big break today as Ginobli is not expected to play due to a groin strain. Of course, that break didn’t help Seattle at all a few nights ago as Parker took on more of the offensive load and the Spurs cruised

I’m not in the camp of “The Spurs Are Done” but the more I see them lately the more I think they will not win the title this year. The reason isn’t the big three — Duncan, Parker and Ginobli have played well all season and that has really continued of late (the spurs are 8-2 in their last 10). In the last 10 all three are averaging at least 16.6 points per game. (That said, Parker is shooting 45.9% and is not hitting his threes, he is someone to lay back on right now). Also, the Spurs have been getting solid play from Finley of late.

And it is not the Spurs defense, which is still the third best in the league for the season. It’s been even better of late, opposing teams are shooting just 44.6% (eFG%) in the last 10. To me, that defense is what keeps them in contention.

But they don’t get the play off the bench that they used to, and I think that will be their downfall in the playoffs. Ime Udoka has had good stretches, same with Kurt Thomas and Brent Barry. But the fact of the matter, you have to have solid group of role players to win a title, and I think the big three in San Antonio no longer have the supporting cast to get them another ring.

Don’t think for a second they are an easy out. Teams that play that kind of defense are all in it.

For more Spurs info, check out Pounding The Rock.

Keys To The Game: It’s all about the Lakers defense, as always, and that starts with keeping the penetration of Parker under control. You can’t let him get into the paint for easy buckets, and when they do get in the paint you can’t collapse on them off Bowen in the corner or Barry. Parker’s outside shooting has been off of late (and it was never great, but he is 0-11 from three in the last 10 games) so this would be the rare instance I think the Lakers should go under picks, play off him a little and make him a jumpshooter.

The other thing about the Lakers defense – it always leads to fast break points when they are playing it right. That would be a big help today, the Spurs like it slow (28th in pace in the league). Push the tempo and they become more uncomfortable. (Although, part of what makes the Spurs fantastic is they never stop doing what they want to do, they don’t get sucked into your game. That is a veteran team.)

Well, I guess I should say it’s not all about the Lakers defense – the teams Spurs have had the most trouble with this year are the ones that are the most offensively efficient. Against the teams that are the 10 best shooting teams in the league, the Spurs have won “just” 48% of the games, and the teams that move the ball the best (as determined by racking up assists) beat the Spurs 54% of the time. Basically, if the Lakers play their offense they should score, and that will put pressure on the Spurs offense, not that team’s strong suit.

The Lakers need to crash the boards hard and not let Duncan and Oberto control them for easy put backs.

Where you can watch: Game time is 12:30 pm (Pacific) and it is ABC for everyone.