If you were to choose the three western conference teams most likely to go to the NBA Finals, you’d likely choose the Clippers, Warriors and Spurs. The Lakers opened the season with a brutal trio of games against these three teams including Friday evening’s match-up at the Staples Center against the defending conference champion San Antonio Spurs. Coming off of a loss to the Golden State Warriors that brought the Lakers back down to earth after a thrilling season opening upset against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will host the team that swept them in the playoffs last season.
But the Lakers may be able to breathe a small sigh of relief. The Spurs may be missing Tim Duncan due to a chest injury suffered early in the third quarter against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Based on the cautious regular season approach that Gregg Popovich generally shows towards injury, it seems very unlikely that the Lakers will need to deal with Duncan in the game. The Spurs were 8-5 in games where Duncan did not play last season, so they aren’t exactly a walk in the park when he sits. Boris Diaw would be thrown into the starting role for Duncan. Diaw was impressive against the Grizzlies, gaining notice from Pop. Traditionally a pass-first kind of player, Diaw was aggressive and efficient. He had 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting in just 21 minutes of play.
For the Lakers, Steve Nash is expected to be back in the line-up after missing Wednesday’s game for rest purposes. D’Antoni is trying to limit the 39-year old’s minutes this season. Nash is a shell of his old self at this point, scoring only 3 points in the Lakers home opener, but he can still provide leadership, a consistent three-ball, and court-generalling of a young team in frequent need of it.
Similar to the Lakers, depth is a strength for the Spurs, who gave 11 players meaningful minutes in their match-up with the Grizz. Remarkably, not a single one of their players played more than 31 minutes in that game despite it being close nearly the whole game. With the bench depth comes a prevalence of shooting for which the Lakers will need to find a solution. Seven different players for the Spurs took multiple threes in their first game, and that doesn’t include the always dangerous Manu Ginobili. The Lakers did a poor job of closing out on shooters against Golden State on Wednesday, so it will be important for this to be something upon which the Lakers improve.
The Lakers are going to need a big game out of… wait for it… Nick Young.
As a known chucker, Nick Young has a tendency to be a huge influence on whether or not his team wins the game. If he shoots 1-for-11 from beyond the arc, he’s provided the Lakers with a ton of empty possessions and they’d be likely to lose. If he happens to catch fire and scores over thirty points and has a ridiculous game, he has the potential to make crazy things happen. Like leading a Wizards team that was one of the worst teams in the league to victory by fifteen points in the Rose Garden, one of the NBA’s hardest road venues to play in. That sort of stuff.
I am as fundamentally against Nick Young’s game as a person can be, but I still think their best chance of winning comes if Young starts spitting fire. So, yeah. The Lakers basically have no chance.
Number of the Night:
17.75 – The average margin of victory for the Spurs in last postseason’s sweep of the Lakers
Nick Young won’t do what I said he needs to do. The Spurs win 129-102 on a shooting barrage from Matt Bonner and Danny Green.