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Lakers vs. Spurs: A few thoughts

January 14, 2009 |  4:02 pm

Pee_wee_at_the_alamo I always enjoy watching the Spurs, and things are no different this year.  Whether they're struggling with injuries as they did opening the season or playing well as they currently are- San Antonio is 18-6 since a 6-6 start, and 8-2 over their last 10- Gregg Popovich's crew always provides a test.  They're like the Terminator.  Or the Energizer Bunny.  Or death and taxes.  Or whatever comparison to something that is steady, consistent, and relatively hard to kill that you prefer.  While they're generally not the most athletic or dynamic team, they're always smart, fundamentally sound, play to their strengths, and most importantly, San Antonio doesn't do the opposition's work for them

With that in mind, some thoughts about tonight's game:

  • SA's frontcourt combination provides an interesting matchup for the Lakers.  Power forward Tim Duncan spends more time near the basket, while center Matt Bonner loves to bomb from the outside, taking three triples a game and shooting nearly 50% from beyond the arc.  It's a similar setup to the Jazz, with Boozer/Millsap and Okur. Look for Bynum to play Duncan, Gasol on Bonner.  On the other end, as Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold points out, whoever gets Bonner needs to take advantage.
  • The Spurs are, in general, a three-heavy group, again, playing to strengths.  Rounding up from George Hill's 39.5% (and eliminating Blake Ahern's six-plus minutes of burn), San Antonio has six rotation players who shoot 40% or better from distance. 
  • With that in mind, don't leave Roger Mason Jr. open. 
  • Given Tim Duncan's defensive abilities, it's no surprise to see that he Spurs don't give up much by the basket, relative to every other team in the league.  Pau Gasol struggled to put up points against them in last year's playoffs, and Andrew Bynum hasn't lit them up, either.
  • Threes are tough to come by against the Spurs as well.   For the Lakers to not get stuck in "long two" hell, they'll have to move the ball far more effectively than they did last night in Houston. 
  • Still, good as they've been in some areas, BDL's Kelly Dwyer notes that the Spurs have sputtered in others: "The weird thing about this giant is that the team is last in three pretty major categories: causing turnovers per possession, pulling in offensive rebounds per how many are available to grab, and getting to the line compared with how many field goals you attempt. The Spurs will also win about 58 games, so there’s that, as well."
  • Tonight's theme: Controlled speed.  Injuries and rotation issues have made it tough for the Lakers to play at truly full speed over the last few games, but if they could gently increase the pace of things tonight, it would serve them well.  But discipline is important- you don't want to turn the ball over against the Spurs.  On the other end, with SA's shooting ability and the penetration skills of Parker and Ginobili, the Lakers will have to be very disciplined in how they trap and what passing lanes they try to jump.  LA has been strong all year forcing TOs and can do so tonight, but can't take shortcuts to get there.