The Lakers are in an onerous position heading into game three. They trail two games to none, losing both games by double figures as the Spurs took control of both games in the 2nd half. Further, their depth is severely compromised. Steve Blake has already been ruled out due to a strained hamstring that leaves him out indefinitely. Jodie Meeks’ MRI revealed a partially torn ligament in his ankle and he remains doubtful to play. Steve Nash is also doubtful with his various lower body ailments.
These players represent the top three guards in the Lakers’ back court rotation. With Kobe already on the shelf, they’re every guard you’d want to be able to rely on to play meaningful minutes at this time of the year. All of them being out spells trouble of the worst kind, especially for a team already having issues generating offense from the perimeter in a way that’s respected by the Spurs.
This game, then, represents the type of challenge that can’t realistically be expected to produce a positive result. This isn’t optimism versus pessimism, it’s simply a matter of health. Take away Parker, Ginobili, Neal, and Joseph against a fully healthy Lakers’ team and I’d venture to say the Spurs’ outlook would be exactly what the Lakers face today.
All that’s left is hope. Hope that Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard can find a bit more efficiency in their games to score well and create good looks for others (especially Pau). Hope that Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, and Chris Duhon play some of the best ball of their lives. Hope that Earl Clark, Jamison, and Ron hit their open jumpers and find slashing and post opportunities behind a Spurs’ D that is heavily committing to stopping Pau and Dwight. Hope that the Lakers find some home court magic that provides them a level of energy and effectiveness that translates to a winning formula.
Because, without those things, it’s safe to say the Lakers are severely outmatched in this game. We can talk beating the fronting defense of the Spurs via high-post flashes and lobs over the top to Dwight Howard. We can talk shading Parker to the baseline on every single touch to funnel him to where the help is. We can talk trapping Ginobili aggressively to make him a passer rather than a scorer. We can even talk pressuring full court to change the tempo and feel of the game. These are all tactical moves that make sense in a vacuum; moves that can improve the Lakers’ chances if executed well and if the Spurs aren’t fully prepared for them.
But the fact is that unless some of the Lakers’ available players can play above their heads in this game, there’s simply too much a disparity in talent on the floor for the tactical adjustments to really make a huge difference. On many levels that’s discouraging. But it’s also how this series is evolved. Even if Nash and Meeks both play, it was really Blake and Kobe who carried the Lakers’ perimeter offense down the stretch of the season and both those guys will be in suits on the sideline. If Nash and Meeks don’t play (which, at this point, seems most likely), the Lakers will be turning to their fifth, sixth, and seventh guards on the roster and players who would not be in the rotation otherwise. That’s no insult to them, it’s simply what they are.
So, hope for the best tonight folks. If nothing else I expect the Lakers’ to play hard and try their best to get what is a very important game within the context of this series. It’s just that they’re so undermanned it’s difficult to see a realistic path where the outcome is different than what’s expected. Maybe at 10:30 tonight, we can all celebrate the improbable. I sure hope so.