Get your pistols out. It is finally time for a good ‘ole fashion shootout, Texas Style.
Wednesday night, the Lakers and the Spurs will engaged in a fight to see who will represent the NBA’s Western Conference in the 2008 NBA Finals. While both the Lakers and the Spurs definitely deserve to be in here, they both have traveled extremely different roads to the NBA’s version of the Final 4.
Beating the Suns in 5 games, and the Hornets in 7, the Spurs are in the Western Conference Finals again. The Spurs are the ones everyone always expected to be here and are led by two time MVP Tim Duncan and 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Tony Parker, who bring experience and a Championship luster to the plate.
After ousting the Phoenix Suns last year in a highly controversial Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Spurs rolled past both the Jazz and the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavilers to their 4th Championship in 9 years.
Tony Parker is very quick and can provide huge problems for a defense. He scores most of his points in the paint. Manu Ginobli is perhaps their best overall player. He does so much for his team; he attacks the basket and has a nice outside jump shot that can be deadly late in games. The Big Fundamental Tim Duncan is one of the most boring players in the history of the NBA, however, he is perhaps the best Power Forward this game has ever seen. He does everything for this team, and most importantly he is a winner. Brue Bowen’s defense is needed for this team to succeed. In previous years he did the best job on Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, but old age is catching up on him, and his amount of success is important. Big Shot Rob, is adored by Lakers fans. He has struggled this year, but would love to do well vs. his old running mates Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. Other key role players like Michael Finley and Fabricio Olberto will also impact games.
Now a year ago, no one expected the Lakers to be in this position. Even when this season began, if you would have said the Lakers would be in the Western Conference Finals, you would probably been laughed at. The Lakers are one of the big surprises of the NBA this year. It’s such an amazing story, that you could take it to Hollywood, and the film writers would have turned you down saying, “That’s impossible.” Yet that is exactly the case.
The Lakers are eight wins away from the NBA Championship. The Lakers are led by Kobe Bryant, The MVP, the best of the best, the big mamba, KB24, Triple Ocho, the man. He is simply amazing and that’s all you can really say about him. Derek Fisher at the point, provides championship experience and veteran leadership that is needed for a team to advance deep in the Playoffs. Pau Gasol is the Lakers anchor in the middle. He isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done. He takes pressure off Kobe Bryant and is one of the smartest players in the NBA. Most importantly he is unselfish, and a perfect side kick for Kobe. Lamar Odom is playing the ball of his life. He is no longer settling for jumpers, he instead is taking it hard to the rack, and cutting as hard as he can. His emergence gives the Lakers a triple threat attack. Vladimar Radmonivic, Luke Walton, Sasha, and Turiaf all bring essential tools to the table. The Lakers need them to play well in order for the Lakers to advance. The wild card for the Lakers is the return of Trevor Ariza. If he can contribute anything to this team, that makes the Lakers that must harder to beat. He is good on defense, and his athleticism makes the Lakers that much quicker and harder to beat.
This is also a battle of two of the greatest coaches of all-time. The Pop and the Zen Master will once again go head-to-head. They have met four times in the postseason since Phil Jackson became coach of the Lakers, with Pop winning one and Phil Jackson winning 3. With both teams so equal, the role of the head coaches and coaching staffs will be extremely important in this series.
Some people are worried about the Lakers playing the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. However to be the best, you have to beat the best, and there is no other team I’d rather see the Lakers face in the Western Conference Finals than our old rivals from the Alamo.
Over the last nine years, the Spurs have won 4 titles and the Lakers 3. With all the history and unbelievable games these two teams have played, it is only fitting that the Lakers and Spurs once against face each other toe to toe for a chance to reach the NBA Finals.
The shootout is here. The dust will settle and only one will be left standing.