Originally written April 19, 2013 on isportsweb.com:
A first round matchup of two historically successful franchises, especially in the past 15 years.  Can the Lakers find an answer without Kobe Bryant?  Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were able to get it done at the end of the year and sneak into the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Spurs are back for more.  They just don’t stop. What San Antonio needs to do to win: Tony Parker.  The outcome of this series will depend on him.  At this stage of both of their careers, Parker is better than Steve Nash.  The Spurs need to use the young legs they have to outplay the Lakers.  Duncan is old but they have young players in Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Tiago Splitter.  Overall, the Lakers have been a lousy defensive team this season.  The Spurs will surely take advantage of a team that doesn’t emphasize defense.  They have a highly efficient offense that shoots the second best percentage in the league. What L.A. needs to do to win: Dwight Howard needs to be the heart and soul of their defense and Pau Gasol needs to be the man on offense.  Even without Kobe, the Lakers have respectable talent in Dwight, Gasol, and Nash.  Howard needs to be completely focused and deny Tim Duncan in the post.  If the Lakers’ bigs can outplay Tim Duncan, this could turn into a great series.  The Lakers will not win if they don’t get back in transition.  Tony Parker will fly right by them and score every time.  It all starts with Dwight Howard sprinting back on defense so he can prevent any easy layups. Key Matchups: Tim Duncan vs. Dwight Howard: Duncan has been much more consistent than Howard this season.  But this is a chance for Howard to start over and change things.  Howard is younger, stronger, and more athletic.  Duncan will get his points because of how skilled he is in the post.  However, if Howard puts in 100 percent effort then it will tire out Tim Duncan and reduce his impact on offense. Tony Parker vs. Steve Nash: Nash hasn’t yet been cleared to play in Game 1 but let’s assume he’s playing.  Nash can’t guard Tony Parker.  That’s a fact.  But if the Lakers play a zone then Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard will light them up from three-point range.  Nash needs to do as much as he can on offense.  He should average 10 assists and make everyone around him better.  Tony Parker should try to burn Nash as much as possible. Pau Gasol could be the difference: Pau Gasol had an unbelievable game in the Lakers’ season finale with 17 points, 20 rebounds, and 11 assists.  Gasol can get his shot off at almost any time but he also has spectacular court vision.  The Lakers’ offense will probably run through him and he can’t let them down. Prediction: Spurs in Six Games
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