The San Antonio Spurs (27-10) will be hosting the struggling Los Angeles Lakers (15-19) tonight at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The Spurs are coming off a disappointing loss to the New Orleans Hornets in a contest they were outhustled with the younger Hornets team using their youth against the veteran Spurs that erased a dominating performance against Philadelphia the game before.
While the Spurs have had two disappointing losses in the past four games. The Lakers have had a worse stretch this season and a disappointing year as a whole. They are on a four game losing streak and a loss to San Antonio will make it five in a row.
Los Angeles will also be short handed with their two starting big men, Pau Gasol (concussion) and Dwight Howard (torn labrum), out indefinitely due to injuries.
I had the opportunity to interview Rey Moralde of the SportsCity.com and LakersNation.com about this game to help get some perspective from the Lakers side. We discuss the injuries, how their coach will adjust to this game, and what the outcome will be.
Jose: With Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol out indefinitely, how do you think Mike D'Antoni will adjust to San Antonio?
Rey: They're going to have to run small ball, which D'Antoni ACTUALLY loves. So we're going to see a lot more perimeter shooting and drive-and-kicking. We may even see someone like Antawn Jamison or Earl Clark at the 5 since they are really depleted right now. The Lakers will have to play a lot of help defense in this game.
Jose: What reserves do you believe will have to fill the voids left by those two big men?
Rey: Robert Sacre will probably end up starting. I have no idea how he'll do in his first high-pressure NBA game. He's got a nice jumper and some nice inside moves but to go against Tim Duncan or even Tiago Splitter? Yeah, I'm not sure how he'll do. Earl Clark will probably get some playing time and you know the Lakers are in trouble when the Lakers have to depend on him. Antawn Jamison will bring some much-needed offense but he can't guard a lamp post.
Jose: Which Spur has the biggest advantage coming into this game?
Rey: Where do I even begin on this? Tim Duncan will definitely be feasting on the Laker bigs. Robert Sacre will probably guard him and, for some reason, I can see D'Antoni putting Jamison on him. I'm really not sure how they can stop him one-on-one and that's why I said there will be a lot of help defense from the Lakers, something they're clearly not good at. If Duncan gets double-teamed a lot, someone like Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker will get open a lot. I suppose it's better than a Duncan inside shot but at this point, it's pick your poison for L.A.
Jose: Who has to have a bigger influence for the Lakers to win this game: Steve Nash on offense or Kobe Bryant on defense?
Rey: Defense, defense, defense. I don't think the Lakers have a problem as much scoring the game; they're still fifth in scoring and sixth in offensive rating (points per possession). They do have problems defensively and taking care of the ball. If they can hold the Spurs down on the defensive end, I think the Lakers can score enough to beat them. But I suppose I'm asking for too much here.
Jose: What do you think the outcome will be for the game?
Rey: I know the Spurs just lost to the Hornets but every team is entitled to a bad game. However, I don't think the Spurs will have two bad games in a row, especially since they will be at the comforts of their home court. The Lakers continue to be in chaos and it just seems to get worse and worse. Unless Robert Sacre becomes this year's diamond in the rough (basically Jeremy Lin), I don't like the Lakers' chances of winning this game. They can't beat teams like Denver and Philly at home so I can't exactly be optimistic about them beating the Spurs in San Antonio.
My prediction is 105-80, San Antonio. It will be competitive for three quarters before the Spurs turn this into a laugher in the fourth.