Game 3: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
The Spurs and Lakers are in the midst of a much-anticipated matchup between the last two Finals champions. So what do both teams have to do to emerge victorious from what should be a best-of-seven classic? NBA.com talked to NBA TV analyst, and former Lakers legend, Gail Goodrich, to get his "three keys" for each team in the series, along with his prediction for a winner.
The Lakers retired Goodrich's No. 25.
Three keys for the Lakers:
1. Shaq and Kobe: "For the Lakers, Kobe and Shaq obviously still carry this team. They will continue to try to do the same things that got them there. People talk about Shaq not having a great series statistically against Houston, but I think he was playing within the team concept, and he'll be a lot better in this series.
Can Shaq help the Glove find the love against the Spurs?
"I suspect also that San Antonio will try to get the ball out of Kobe's hands quickly. They'll two-time him and force him to pass the ball to get it out of his hands. The Lakers have to be ready for this, especially if the game's close -- there's no one better with the ball in his hands late in the game than Kobe."
2. Finding "other" points: "I don't know where the Lakers are going to get 'other' points. That's one of their big questions. The rest of the team has really been inconsistent. One night Derek Fisher comes in and hits a few, another night it's Payton. I think that's where they're going to have some difficulty. I just don't know where the Lakers consistently can get more offensive production outside of Kobe and Shaq.
"Karl Malone certainly came alive after the first game of the Houston series. He has to do that again. And Payton is displeased by his lack of playing time in the fourth quarter. He obviously is not happy. They just lack the depth that San Antonio has."
3. Step up on defense: "I still think the Lakers have the ability to win close games, but they have to step up their defense this time of year, and I think they will -- they certainly have the ability to do so. Unfortunately they're playing San Antonio, a tremendous defensive team. The Spurs are just peaking at the right time."
Three keys for the Spurs:
1. Exploit the bench: "San Antonio has a much better bench than the Lakers. Manu Ginobili is really a fine basketball player. Robert Horry, as always, has been exceptional in the playoffs. He will be a key, because he'll get a lot of minutes -- he obviously strives on the pressure of the playoffs and enjoys the playoffs. And it's an interesting matchup for him; who are the Lakers going to put against him off the bench?
The Spurs' hopes of advancing could rest on Parker's shoulders.
"Plus, someone's also got to match up against Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu's such a good ball-player, and at 6-10 he creates a tough matchup. Is Devean George going to guard him? Slava Medvedenko? It's tough either way, because Medvedenko can't go outside and guard Turkoglu, but George gives up some size to Hedo. I just think San Antonio has such a big advantage off the bench."
2. Tony Parker: "I think another key is the play of Tony Parker. He's really stepped up his game. He was sensational in the first series. His ability to penetrate and kick it out, and his decision-making has gotten a lot better. If he is making his outside jump-shot, it's going to be very very tough for the Lakers.
"Gary Payton, I suspect, will draw this assignment. It'll be interesting to see if Payton can stay in front of Parker and limit his penetration. I don't know if he can. A few years ago he could, but I think he's lost a step or two at his age."
3. Pick and roll: "One of the weaknesses for the Lakers is their ability to defend the pick-and-roll. I suspect that the Spurs will come out at the top of the key and Parker will run the pick and roll, and whoever Shaquille is guarding will try to create that space or that mismatch.
"For all the great things Shaquille does, I think he's vulnerable when he has to pick up a small, quick guard around the top of the key. If San Antonio is successful at creating that mismatch, and Parker can get into the lane and penetrate, I think it will be a nightmare for the Lakers."
"Ultimately, while my heart is in Los Angeles, I think San Antonio right now has a better basketball team. I have to pick San Antonio. I think it'll be a hard-fought series. I'd be surprised if it didn't go six or seven games.
"Also, I think the winner of this series represents the West in the Finals. I don't think that Minnesota or Sacramento can beat either of these teams in a seven-game series."