Earlier this week, the San Antonio Spurs handed the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers their worst loss of the season. The Spurs won’t be as fortunate this time around as Kobe Bryant is expected to play in tonight’s game.
As the regular season winds down, the Lakers travel to Texas to take on their Western Conference rival, the San Antonio Spurs, Friday night. The highly anticipated match-up will show which team has the momentum and chemistry going into the Playoffs. The Spurs, after starting the season 12-9, have been on an absolute tear led by lightning quick Tony Parker, and Coach Greg Popovich’s balanced lineup. The Spurs have only lost 2 of their last 18 games, one of those two coming at the hands of the Lakers. San Antonio are currently at the top of the Western Conference.
At the other corner, we have the Lakers, who have only lost 3 of their last 12 games. The update with L.A. is that Kobe Bryant will be back on Friday night. The team went 5-2 without Kobe, actually averaging 4 more points while he was out. The Lakers are a much-improved defensive team with the addition of Coach Mike Brown, but they let the Spurs score 112 points in their last game, something which they cannot let happen again.
These two teams have played each other twice this season (both of which were played in the last 10 days). The Lakers first won in San Antonio on April 11th, 98-84. As Kobe Bryant sat out due to a shin injury, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace stepped up. Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds, while World Peace had 26 points. Andrew Bynum was dominant all night, adding 16 points and a season high 30 rebounds.
The Spurs then defeated Los Angeles on April 17th, 112-91. Tony Parker had a game high 29 points and 13 assists. Tim Duncan added 19 points and 8 rebounds. The Spurs had 5 players in double figures, and just put on a clinic. They shot 59.5% from the field and 38.9% from the distance. As a fan of the Lakers, it was embarrassing to watch Tony Parker just run circles around our players. Steve Blake is still looking around for Parker. Lakers big men need to get back on defense tonight (yes, 14 feet is a whole lot of running), and if they don’t, we’ll see a repeat of last time.
Tonight’s game will lead to a psychological advantage for one of the teams: if LA wins, they feel confident in Kobe’s return to lineup going into the playoffs; if San Antonio wins, they send a message to the Lakers that they’re better, even with Kobe. Look for Kobe to make his impact in tonight’s game, but if the Lakers want to win, the game will have to be played inside-out. The Spurs big men will have to be working overtime if they want to contain Andrew Bynum, and the Lakers should use this size advantage to set the right tempo and pace for the game. Costly turnovers and failed possessions for Los Angeles, however, will lead to transition buckets for San Antonio, with Parker leading the charger most likely.
Tip-off is tonight at 6:30 PM PST.
You can also view this post on Bleacher Report: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1153695-los-angeles-lakers-vs-san-antonio-spurs-preview-kobe-bryant-back-in-lineup