(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers
The Spurs are big-time favorites with an 82.2% chance of winning game one. The average score after 10,000 simulations is 103-92. The Spurs are currently favored in Vegas by 8.5 points and cover that spread in 58% of the simulations.
Dwight Howard: 20 pts, 12 rebs, 2 blks
Pau Gasol: 17 pts, 9 rebs, 5 asts
Tim Duncan: 19 pts, 10 rebs, 2 blks
Tony Parker: 18 pts, 7 asts
The Spurs won two of the three regular season games between the tams, but the Lakers did win the most recent match-up to date, beating San Antonio this past Sunday. We know the Lakers are without Kobe Bryant, but keep an eye out for the statuses of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. If they’re even somewhat healthy, the Spurs will take this game and the series fairly easily. If they’re hobbling, however, the Lakers just might have enough to steal a few games and maybe even the series.
For the Lakers, everything will be about their defense, specifically the perimeter defense. Parker and Ginobili are extremely crafty in how they get in the lane and kick out for open jumpers. Rather than help the dribble drive, I would have the guys guarding shooters to just stick with their guys. Let each individual be responsible for an assignment because helping off of shooters and/or cutters will just create more havoc.
On offense, the Lakers need to dump it into the paint on every possession. It’s the only advantage the team has over the Spurs, and win or lose, you have to at least try and exploit the advantage. My only worry is that Pop hacks-a-howard, ultimately taking away LAL’s flow and size. Either way, Pau can’t let Tiago Splitter come close to matching his impact on the game.
Look for the Spurs to stifle the Lakers on D early and take away any sort of confidence the team has coming into the series. The Lakers shot under 37% in their last win against the Rockets, and anything below 43% will be a guaranteed loss in this series. Pop and his team know that after the injury to Kobe, the Lakers don’t have the same identity as before and no one to create shots. They will double the post often, and force LA’s shooters to make some shots on the road. Miss those early and expect a very short series.
X-Factor: Steve Nash. If he can stay healthy and just be on the floor for an extended period of time, the Lakers can get the spacing their bigs need. Even though Steve Blake has been playing well recently, let’s not kid ourselves by saying that he makes the defense game-plan for him. Nash, on the other hand, does because of his reputation.
OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)
Spurs: offense 105.9 (7th in NBA), defense 99.2 (3rd in NBA)
Lakers: offense 105.6 (8th in NBA), defense 103.5 (18th in NBA)
Differential: Spurs +6.8 (3rd in NBA), Lakers +2.0 (10th in NBA)
If the Lakers are going to steal one of the the first two games, it’ll be game one or nothing. Pop’s coaching acumen will have the Spurs making key adjustments as the series progresses, any slip ups will come early. With all that said, I think Lakers lose this one because of poor three-point D and Howard’s FTs.
Spurs 97 Lakers 88