Sunday, April 4, 2010
Lakers-Spurs: Five things to watch
By Andy Kamenetzky
Hopefully, everyone's found the eggs hidden in the backyard and is settling in for a Lakers and Spurs Easter Sunday matchup. It's always a treat when these squads face off, and adding another wrinkle, we could be watching a preview of the Lakers' first round matchup in the playoffs. With that in mind, here are a few things worth keeping an eye on during the game.
-I've often noticed Tim Duncan tends to be bothered more by defenders of length rather than bulk. PauGasolhas spent much of his career derided as a willowy wisp of a big man. He didn't really even lift weights until he was shipped to L.A. for Kwame Brown (ironically, the strongest Laker on the roster at the time).
Well, guess what? Pau's not only evolved into a considerably better one-on-one defender than advertised in Memphis, but he's done very well bodying The Big Fundamental over the last few seasons in L.A. Even more promising, he did a very good job in their most recent meeting on March 24. Gasol may have been limited to just 10 points on 11 shots, but that was Kobe's "81" compared to TD. The same 11 shots, but just two of them fell, leaving Duncan with a scant six points. ManuGinobilimay be the Spurs' engine, but without a solid body, a car's horsepower is ultimately pretty worthless. Limit Duncan and the auto's performance will follow suit.
This performance came directly after several writers, most notably the LosAngelesTimes'Bill Plaschke, criticized Artest's fit compared to Trevor Ariza's. To the best of my knowledge, there are no fresh Artest-Ariza articles hitting the nets today, but if you're a Laker fan and happen to see Artest on the way to Staples, tell him he's getting crushed by the media. That seems to help the cause.
-Unless he wake up feeling awful from yesterday's practice, Luke Walton plans to suit up after being shelved since February 10 with a pinched nerve in his back. I don't see him playing more than 10-ish minutes, but they could be 10 purposeful ones. The Lakers' second unit has been, to put it kindly, erratic all season, and Lamar Odom having to cover for Andrew Bynum in the starting five hasn't helped matters. Jordan Farmarand Shannon Brown are more dynamic and potentially explosive players than Walton, but neither is as good at running the offense, much less creating for others. Hopefully, Walton taking the reigns will keep everyone on the same page and create more productive bench stints.
-Interesting little coincidental tidbit, courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau. Phil Jackson has a 28-27 (.509) career record against the Spurs during the regular season, the lowest career winning percentage Jackson has recorded against any team he has faced at least 20 times in his career. Gregg Popovich has a 25-25 (.500) career record against the Lakers during the regular season, which ties for the lowest career winning percentage against any team (13-13 vs. Milwaukee).
In related news, Jackson once had a secretary named "Popovich" and Popovich had a secretary named "Jackson."