We’ve covered a fair amount of ground in the lead up to game one, from the regular season trends to what to look for on offense and defense to some potential X-factors to look for over the course of the series. The analysis we can provide before the games begin is done, now it’s about what happens on the floor moving forward.
What we know is that Steve Nash will try to influence that as he plans to play in game one. How long Nash can go and how effective he can be are open questions. His presence should aid the team’s offense, but it remains to be seen how much and if there are negatives we haven’t yet accounted for. How Nash performs on defense will also be key, the Spurs will surely test him on that end of the floor to see how he holds up physically. They don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary to do so, they simply must run him off some screens and attack him in isolation a few times to see how he performs.
Beyond Nash, however, there aren’t many new wrinkles to explore — though the Lakers certainly have the potential to mix things up more due to missing Kobe and how that affects style of play and rotations. These teams are what they are heading in to this contest and much of what we see today will be about execution and energy. The team that does the former better and brings more of the latter will be the one that has a better chance of claiming the all important first game. The Spurs are favored to win this contest and the series, and with good reason. They’re the better team by any metric we have available to us to measure such things.
In a way, however, that underdog status can be used to fuel the Lakers. For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the Lakers can truly adopt the “us against the world” mindset and use that as an extra bit of motivation. Many expect the Lakers to compete, but few (if anyone) expects them to win. This shouldn’t matter to a team who has confidence that they can win anyway (as the Lakers claim they are), but it would be silly to think it won’t play a part in their approach to the series. When no one believes in you, there can be hardening of your core that can help move you forward. We’ll see if this holds true for the Lakers.
Lastly, and I say this every year, for the fans, it’s time to sit back and try to enjoy this ride the best we can. The regular season offered many ups and downs. The playoffs will offer more of them. But now that the team has made the post-season, they have the opportunity to do something special. Whether they do or not will depend on a myriad of factors, none of which we can control. So, enjoy this extended journey for as long as it lasts. We may just be surprised when it’s all over.