Records: Lakers 12-8; Spurs 17-4
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.2 (8th); Spurs 114.4 (3rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.1 (12th); Spurs 104.9 (10th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Vladamir Radmanovic, Andrew Bynum
Spurs: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Matt Bonner, Francisco Elson
Lakers Notes: First game of a back-to-back against teams that are 8-2 in their last 10. ESPN.comâ€™s Hollinger has the Lakers with the toughest schedule in the league so far and I think theyâ€™ll keep that title for at least another week. Yippee!
The Kwame Brown update: He practiced yesterday and likely will be back to provide some post defense and drop some passes next week. Luke Walton may come off the bench tonight, if you believe Phil Jackson.
As for tonight, with one game in the last six days, the Lakers should be rested and have all their holiday shopping done. (And if you are a player giving away the Lakers gear you take for free from the team store, thatâ€™s cheating. Buy something.)
The Spurs Coming In: Tim Duncan is officially listed as questionable for tonight. However, seeing as he wasnâ€™t the one who beat the Lakers last time they played that doesnâ€™t mean a ton. He only had five points.
Now, Tony Parker is also listed as questionable because of a sprained ankle (I bet we do see him) but if he is slowed just half a step, well, heâ€™s still a step quicker than just about every Laker but theyâ€™ll be closer to him when he hits that little floater in the lane. The ankle has seemed to bother Parkerâ€™s shooting, he is 19 of 50 from the floor in his last three games (sans Duncan).
Despite the Duncan injury the Spurs have continued to bring Ginobli off the bench the last couple games, going with a starting five that puts a lot of pressure on Parker to provide the scoring. When Ginobli does come in he is lighting it up, shooting 42.9% from three in his last 10 games.
Parker and Ginobli are carrying the scoring load of late, although the Spurs role players are all capable of having a big night. Matt Bonner dropped 25 the other night. Hope his mom clipped that story for the scrapbook.
Last Time These Two Met: Bruce Bowen, 23 points, 6-6 from three. That should bring back some not-so-fond memories.
The reason that Bowen had a big game (and the Lakers lost) was that Parker and Ginobli got into the lane at will, the Laker defense collapsed on them and the Spurs kicked out to wide open guys at the three point line. There was other fun, like when the Lakers guards went under the screen on the pick and roll, and San Antonio drained the open shot behind the screen. The Lakers defensive goal was to defend the paint and they got burned by a team that could space the floor and shoot.
Also, the Lakers had a lot of empty trips thanks to 19 turnovers, plus they shot 2 of 16 from beyond the arc (the Spurs defend that shot as well as any team in the league.
Keys To The Game: My guess is we will see Parker and not Duncan, but that could well be reversed. And if Duncan starts maybe Ginobli does too to provide a guy who can penetrate to the first five. Popovich will make that call close to game time and most likely will not call me to let me know his plans in advance.
The match up Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing: Ariza on Ginobli. I think Arizaâ€™s length and athleticism could give the Argentinean problems, plus Ariza likes to go to the basket and that may get a foul or two on Manu.
The Lakers cannot really stop Parker or Ginobli one-on-one, the problem last game was that the entire perimeter defense collapsed on those two when they started to drive, leaving Bowen and others wide open looks from three. The Lakers have to trust their rotations, trust their bigs coming from the weak side to make some blocks. If they do that, you go a long way toward stopping the Spurs (and playing better defense on the whole).
Tonightâ€™s Game: Where We Miss The First Five Minutes Because The Early Game Runs Long Happens: Yes the Spurs have injuries to their big three, but part of what has made them THE SPURS the last decade is that they play their system well, right down to the 12th man on the bench. This team is no pushover, regardless of who plays. That said, if the Lakers stay disciplined on defense and stay in their system, they can win a close game. This will be a good measuring stick for just how well the Lakers are playing now.
Where you can watch: We all get to spend some time with TNT tonight, and here are 15 reasons to watch the doubleheader tonight (from Hardwood Paroxysm). What we need to do is come up with a TNT studio hosts drinking gameâ€¦.