Coach’s Corner: Bill Fitch on Lakers-Spurs Matchup
By Bill Fitch


Fitch

WHY THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT ...

With the Spurs at 27-12 and the Lakers at 25-13, this game is a showcase for a potential playoff match-up down the road, or at the least, both of these teams will still be playing once the regular season ends. If I was a fan in San Antonio I would want to be in the stands for this one. There are some games that the Spurs don’t always get up for (maybe that was the case on Monday in Chicago) but this shouldn’t be one of them.

Bowen will look to stop Bryant.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

PLAYER ON THE SPOT

Tony Parker: All the great teams need to have three guys that can put points on the board. For the Spurs that trio consists of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker. Against Chicago, Duncan (21 points, 16 rebounds) and Ginobili (22 points) got the job done, but Parker was off his game. He was a non-factor on the offensive end with only six points and he had more turnovers (three) than assists (two). On the defensive end, both Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon had big scoring games. Parker needs to bounce back and the Spurs need him to bounce back.

Andrew Bynum: When it is a big ballgame, Kobe always has a load to carry for the Lakers, so he can’t be on the spot. The other night versus Miami, Brian Cook did a great job making some key buckets, finishing with 25 points. Luke Walton has been doing a good job pretty much all season. If you are going to pick one guy that could turn the game around that no one is expecting it would be Bynum because of the daunting challenge of trying to handle Duncan in the frontcourt.

X-FACTOR

This game features two of the league’s best coaches in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich with two different problems. Phil is guiding a young team that is learning and, therefore, has had to have a lot of patience. Plus he is missing two potential starters with Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom out of the lineup. The other side of the coin is that Phil’s defense has been very sporadic, especially in transition. If Los Angeles is going to win a ballgame, they have to do it offensively. San Antonio will beat you at both ends, which is why they are a little more consistent and why they’ve won a few more ballgames than Los Angeles.

With that said, Coach Pop has to find a combination that can play both ends of the floor off the bench. When he keeps his starting five out there right now, they’re pretty tough. Normally his teams are so tough on defense that they can win on nights that the offense is not clicking. This year if the offense has a bad night, they’re vulnerable because their defense isn’t as good as it’s been in the past.

HOT TOPICS

Spurs: Is it time to a shake-up the roster?
They’ve had a couple games where Brent Barry and Michael Finley have come through for them and Robert Horry had a good spell last week, but those days are few and far between. Is it time for San Antonio, who has had great continuity with their personnel, to start tinkering with its make-up, especially since in the eyes of many they are a distant third behind Phoenix and Dallas in the West? They may be looking. The only thing is there might not be much in the cupboard. Look around at the teams that can help them. Portland has got those three centers out there with Jamaal Magloire, Joel Przybilla and now the young kid, LaMarcus Aldridge. Przybilla starts, plays eight minutes, and then you don’t see him again. He would be someone the Spurs would like to have, but the teams in the West are going to be hesitant to do any trading with San Antonio. Corey Maggette would be another great pickup for them, but I don’t know how they could get him.

Spurs: The brutal upcoming schedule
If you look forward, in the next 14 games after this one, both the Lakers and the Spurs will be playing four at home and 10 on the road. Both teams will make Eastern trips, but I don’t think there is a tougher schedule for anybody than what San Antonio will be facing starting the last week of January. Beginning Jan. 28, the Spurs will play on the road against the Lakers, Utah, Phoenix, Washington, Orlando, Miami, New Jersey, and Detroit, all without a day home in between.

BOTTOM LINE

People would call it a big win if Los Angeles was to go in there and beat San Antonio. Right now, the Spurs are more ready to win playing at home and coming off a loss that they probably are kicking themselves for against Chicago. I don’t think the Lakers have enough firepower to beat San Antonio on this stage. But whoever wins, it will be a great showcase. When you get these types of teams at this stage of the year, this is a game they’re both looking forward to playing.

-- Named one of the "Top 10 Coaches in NBA History" during the League's "NBA at 50" celebration, Bill Fitch garnered numerous accolades during his 22 years manning the sidelines. His 944 wins while coaching Cleveland, Boston, Houston, New Jersey and the Los Angeles Clippers currently ranks him sixth all-time and earned him NBA Coach of the Year honors in 1976 and 1980. In 1981, Fitch guided the Boston Celtics to the NBA championship in six games behind a young trio made up of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

Bill Fitch appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association