Mike D’antoni remarked that the Spurs are the best team the Lakers have faced all year. Really. How can he tell? Yes the Spurs beat the Lakers by 30+ points. Yes they scored a billion points against D’antoni’s defense. But so did the Clippers, Thunder and Warriors. Anyone who faces the Lakers these days look like the best team in the NBA because the Lakers are the worst team in the NBA- or close to it. So here the Lakers are without Jordan Farmar (again) and trying to salvage something from this season which is the same miraculous feat as diving in cold waters in order to salvage a piece of the Titanic. But the Lakers have showed glimpses, every now and then, that they function as a NBA team, they rebound, move the ball on both sides of the court and play hard. So perhaps…
Face it, the matchups are heavily in San Antonio’s favor. Let’s start at point. Tony Parker vs. Kendall Marshall. It is unlikely that a player who was in the D-league has any shot at trying to control Parker especially when Kendall Marshall is too slow to keep Parker from getting into the paint. At the shooting guard Bellinelli vs. Jodie Meeks is a toss up. Both are great long distance shooters. Bellinelli is more accurate on drives than Meeks but Meeks plays harder on defense. At the small forward Wes Johnson vs. Kawhi Leonard. C’mon now, is that even a question. Tim Duncan vs. Ryan Kelly. Enough said. Pau Gasol vs. Tiago Splitter. Advantage Gasol, the only advantage the Lakers have on the court and one they will have to exploit. The bench is just as lethal with Danny Green and Paddy Mills and do everything player Boris Diaw.
It is the same scouting report for the Lakers. They have to move the ball and make threes. But the Spurs are the best team in the NBA in limiting a team from taking threes. If the Lakers don’t make threes they don’t score as evidenced in their last game against the Spurs. Popovich’s game plan will remain consistent, run the shooters off the perimeter and make the Lakers create shots. On defense the Lakers will struggle. The Spurs are the best ball movement team in the NBA and the Lakers defense consists of doubling and then not rotating, or going under a screen or turning their head as their man cuts to the rim. But the Spurs are an average rebounding team, especially offensive rebounding so the Lakers if motivated, and that is always a big if, can get misses and second opportunities.
If there is any silver lining about this game it is that the Spurs will give the Lakers an education. This is what a contending team looks like. The Spurs have shot creators at multiple positions. They shoot over 49% as a team because they take good shots out of ball movement, they don’t jack up shots early in the possession. They are the best three point field goal percentage team in the NBA making 40% of their threes, yet they have taken 250 less threes than the Lakers. It just means they have a good balance between outside and inside shots- no D’antoni offense for the Spurs. The same with free throws. They don’t go the line a lot but they make the ones they take, shooting almost 80%. The Spurs are third in assists. They control the pace. Sigh. The Lakers will play hard but San Antonio is too mature of a team, too well coached and wants the #1 seed. Lakers lose. (Again).