After falling ‘Big three’-less to the Utah Jazz on Monday, the San Antonio Spurs (40-15) return to the AT&T Center (23-4) to host the visiting Los Angeles Lakers for the first time late in this compressed NBA season.
The Spurs are expected to have their entire group ready for tonight’s game, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some players go minute-less, as the Spurs have a back-to-back with the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
The Lakers will be playing without superstar Kobe Bryant, who is sitting for his third consecutive game. The Lakers come into San Antonio with one day of rest as they barely defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Monday. The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 games and don’t have a great track record when playing away from Staples Center, as they’re 13-16 on the road.
Case No. 56: Los Angeles Lakers (36-22)
- Kobe Bryant – Out. I was really hoping I’d get to see Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard defend Bryant for the first time, but it seems that matchup will have to wait until sometime next week when the Spurs and Lakers will meet twice in one week.
- Andrew Bynum – 18.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 12.8 FGA (57%), 5.6 FTA (68%). Bynum was the starting center for the Western conference All-Stars in February, and rightly so, as Bynum has been having a stellar season now that he has been healthy for the majority of the season.
- Pau Gasol – 17.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 13.9 FGA (51%), 3.9 FTA (77%). Lakers head coach Mike Brown has theoretically built his own “twin towers” in Bynum and Gasol, as both of their numbers are fairly close to each other. Gasol is quietly having a very steady season as he continues to anchor the Lakers in the post.
- Ramon Sessions – 13.7 points, 7.3 assists, 8.8 FGA (52%), 5.1 FTA (74%). After so many years of the Lakers’ point guard helm being lead by Derek Fisher, the Lakers traded him at the trade deadline and were able to acquire Sessions in a deal. Sessions brings the Lakers more activity on both offense and defense with his speedy play.
- Matt Barnes – 7.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.9 FGA (43%), 2 3PT FGA (30%). I’m going to make a prediction, through the course of the game, Barnes and Spurs forward Stephen Jackson will exchange some unkind words at least twice.
- Metta World Peace – 6.7 points, 6.6 FGA (38%), 2.8 3PT (29%). After you get past the fact that “Metta World Peace” is his actual name, you realize that World Peace is already heading toward the tail end of his career as his points per game are dipping lower and his three point shooting is really struggling this season.
Offense vs. Offense
- 1. Points: Spurs (102) – Lakers (96.8) = Spurs
- 2. Assists: Spurs (22.6) – Lakers (22) = Spurs
- 3. Shooting percentage: Spurs (47.2%) – Lakers (45.8%) = Spurs
- 4. Three point shooting percentage: Spurs (38.5%) – Lakers (31.8%) = Spurs
- 5. Free throw attempts: Spurs (21.4) – Lakers (24.2) = Lakers
- 6. Turnovers: Spurs (13) – Lakers (14.6) = Spurs
Offensive Leader: Spurs 5-1
These numbers are a little skewed since Bryant isn’t playing in the game. Without him, the Lakers are actually averaging 99 points per game, they’re shooting less free throws, and more players are touching the ball.
Still, missing Bryant takes away one of the games most lethal scorers and finishers.
Defense vs. Defense
- 1. Opponent scoring: Spurs (96.3) – Lakers (94.8) = Lakers
- 2. Opponent shooting: Spurs (45%) – Lakers (43%) = Lakers
- 3. Rebounds: Spurs (42.7) – Lakers (45.9) = Lakers
- 4. Personal Fouls: Spurs (17.3) – Lakers (17.2) = Lakers
Defensive Leader: Lakers 4-0
The Lakers’ defense barely beats the Spurs numbers wise, but I’m sure both teams’ defenses are closely similar.
Even though Bryant isn’t playing, this is still a very important game for one key reason. This can finally be an indication if the Spurs’ frontline has improved from last season to this season. Duncan is rested and performing well this season, Blair is having good season as the fast paced offense is what makes him so productive, Splitter is having a stellar second season, Bonner is showing more than just hitting threes, and now the Spurs have the passing and defensive ability of Boris Diaw.
Not only did the same Spurs frontline make personal improvements, the team has Diaw to give them depth. Will this depth be enough to limit Bynum and Gasol? Only Wednesday will tell.
Another fun lens to view this game is the way both teams run their offenses. The Spurs like to run-and-gun and get smart-quick shots up, while the Lakers are playing the old Spurs basketball of throwing the ball into Bynum or Gasol.
If the Spurs can outrun the Lakers, Brown may be forced to match them and have to remove either Bynum or Gasol because of their lack of speed.
Without Bryant, it’s going to be tough for the Lakers to defeat the Spurs at home on a night where the “Big three” will be returning fresh from two days of rest, and the rest of the players will be looking for a win after losing a tough game in Utah.
The Spurs look like they have too much fire power on offense for the Lakers to match, so they’ll need to come out aggressive, limit their own turnovers, play team defense on Bynum and Gasol and watch any kick-outs to shooters. If the Spurs follow their patterns that have helped them win 40 games this season, then a win shouldn’t be out of the question.