It’s April 20, 2012 and the (40-23) Los Angeles Lakers are in Texas for an important game against the (45-16) San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers had a solid bounce back 99-87 win game against the Golden State Warriors after suffering their worst loss of the season to the Spurs on 4/17.
Make no mistake tonight’s game against the Spurs on the road and Sunday’s game at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder are playoff games. The Lakers need to approach both games with this thought in mind and act accordingly.
The Spurs, embarrassed by the Lakers at home 98-84 on 4/11, came out ready to play and made a statement against L.A. on 4/17 at the Staples Center.
The Spurs made the necessary adjustments, put into play a game plan to increase the tempo, double-team Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol hard, cut off the passing lanes to all inside passes, and got into transition as fast as possible making the Lakers big players run while trailing the action, unable to protect the rim.
It is imperative that the Lakers adjust to the changes the Spurs made in their blow out win. As bad as it was, L.A. has to realize that it only counts as one loss. The Lakers played seven games without Kobe and surprisingly went 5-2 in that stretch. The Lakers had a desire to rest Kobe earlier in the season, the seven-game; 13-day absence accomplished the task.
Several have asked the question, will Kobe Bryant’s return ruin the Lakers chemistry. Kobe Bryant has had time to see the Lakers more balanced; the production & confidence level of his teammates increase in his absence.
It is a fact that Kobe Bryant has been a volume shooter, but at the end of the day, the Black Mamba wants to win another championship and views that far more important that individual achievements. Kobe Bryant has no problem with a decrease in the number of shots he takes knowing that he can take over in the fourth quarter, if needed.
Kobe Bryant’s return will be huge for the Lakers, but his presence will cause problems for the Spurs. Kobe’s return not only puts the Lakers best player back in the lineup, but also places a facilitator, shot creator, leader, one the league’s top scorers, game changer and a closer in position to affect the outcome of any game.
Offensively, the Lakers have to play inside out and get the ball into Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol. If the Spurs want to use a guard to double-team one of their big players the Lakers start two seven-footers and need to employ more lob passes.
The Lakers and Spurs have split the first two games of the season series 1-1, and have split each of the last two season series 2-2. The Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 games in San Antonio. Tonight’s game is the second to last road game of the season. The Lakers are 9-2 on the road in their last 11 games, a win tonight and L.A. will have a .500 (16-16) road record.
Defensively, the Lakers have to play solid against the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of Tony Parker, get back in transition, control the tempo, control the boards, defend and quickly rotate out to open shooters. L.A. has to take better care of the ball and limit their turnovers. The Lakers must have improved ball movement, better player movement and a contribution from everyone.
Lakers: R. Sessions, K. Bryant, R. Artest, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Spurs: T. Parker, D. Green, K. Leonard, T. Duncan, D. Blair
Tip-off: 6:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
- San Antonio: FSSW (Bill Land & Sean Elliott)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- San Antonio: WOAI-AM 1200 (Bill Schoening)
- Kobe Bryant (Tenosynovitis, Left Shin) Day-to-Day
- Jordan Hill (Sprained MCL, Right Knee) Questionable
- Ramon Sessions (Sprained Left Shoulder, AC Joint) Probable