San Antonio vs. L.A. Lakers -- An Xís and Oís Perspective
Sunday 3:30 ET
Scoring Drought for the Spurs
This team has never been known as an offensive team, but they have always been very efficient offensively. Lately, though, theyíve been struggling to score. In their last three games they scored 64 in Utah, 72 in Portland and 79 at home against Phoenix. This is the time of year when they usually get their act together and shorten the rotation. Manu Ginobiliís had an incredible year, and he carried them when Tony Parker was hurt, but their success is when everybody is playing at a high level.
A problem I see for them is that they donít create turnovers. Their field goal percentage defense is always solid, but they donít get a lot of easy baskets. That is the key. But I think when Parker scores the ball, the Spurs are certainly more dangerous and if he gets out on the break and gets easy baskets, that is certainly something they have to do. Then, when most teams try to stop Tim Duncan, you have to have people on the perimeter to make shots. It seems like Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan have to score every game if they are going to win. They have to find somebody else.
I think Michael Finley has picked it up recently, though heís streaky. Bruce Bowen is streaky. Jacque Vaughn is not one of their top outside shooters. Robert Horry has been on the bench and theyíre not playing Matt Bonner. When Brent Barry comes back hopefully it will help that. You can defend well enough, but you have to find a way to put it in the basket.
The Spurs' Loss to Phoenix Is Troubling
In speaking to Pop, the Spurs approached the Phoenix game like a huge game. I was down in San Antonio to visit with him and asked him to go to the Final Four, but he didnít want to fight the crowd and he wanted to prepare for Phoenix, and that was with three days to prepare. Still, they only scored 79 points. So I think they have to find a way to score. They won eight in a row, got bombed by Utah, and then won at Portland. Again, Horryís not dressing, Barryís not there, and Ginobili had a real off game, but these kids have been through it before. Based on the emphasis put on that game, it bothers me a little bit how they played. I think the Spurs can score off the Lakers because theyíre not a great defensive team. Then again, I didnít think the Suns were a great defensive team.
Kobe Is Important, but Donít Forget About the Rest of the Lakers
I think the compelling matchup is if Bowen can make it tough on Kobe to score the ball, but that is not the defining thing for the Lakers anymore. Most of the time the Spurs stick Bowen on Kobe. Then Finley will play Luke Walton or Vladimir Radmanovic. Pop usually doesnít mix and match so whoever guards Duncan is the guy that he will probably guard. The wildcard with the Lakers is their bench with Turiaf, Farmar and Vujacic, who help the Lakers go three-deep at the point guard position with Derek Fisher, and then the play of Lamar Odom. Lamar has been consistent and if he scores, that gives them an extra dimension. It seems like the Lakers can win games without Kobe having to score. Before the Pau Gasol trade, I didnít think that was the case.
Kobe or Chris Paul for MVP? Hard to Argue Against Paul
I love Kobe, but I donít think he is MVP this year, not that he isnít deserving. Look at Chris Paul. I hear all the talk about Kobe and LeBron, but Cleveland is not tearing it up and Kobe, heís got a lot of help, but I think this kid Chris Paul is doing something special. What was the Hornets record last year? 39-43.
Right now the Hornets are just about the best in the West and everybody is saying how much better the West is than the East. If thatís the case, why wouldnít your most valuable player on the best team in the West be your best choice? And that is not knocking Kobe because on both ends of the court he impacts the game, but you can make a legitimate case for this kid. Weíve been talking about them falling back to earth, but it seems like whenever the Spurs or Lakers or somebody catches them, they just get another opportunity and they win games. I think itís going to be an interesting vote.
I think Kobe is the best player in the league. My thing with Kobe is that when I look at these other stars, Kobe guards the other stars, they donít always guard him. That is how I have always defined it. Now, we voted for Steve Nash and he was a point guard who made everybody better. This kid, Chris Paul, I think has done even more because heís got them the best record in the league in the West. I canít imagine anybody having any other conclusion.
Expectations for Andrew Bynum Whenever He Returns
The Lakers are a system team and they donít tweak it for the playoffs. Phil has played one way forever. Their whole thing is about execution. For Bynum it will be different because he doesnít have to come in as a starter with Gasol being there. Hopefully if Bynumís healthy he can come in and just play as a backup. In that situation heís playing against the other teamís backup players, which is a plus. My concern is you have a 20-year old kid coming off a pretty serious knee injury. I think theyíll be very, very cautious about working him in.
A Matchup of Finals Contenders
When I heard most people talk about who was going to come out of the West, as soon as that Gasol trade was made, it was the Lakers. So many people are always inclusive when they put the Spurs in based on the fact that they won four championships and they have a tendency to play best at the end. This a matchup between two teams that most people think can win it and based on the Spurs last performance against Phoenix, itís huge for them.