The Los Angeles Lakers (36-22) got a much-needed win on the road in New Orleans on Monday without Kobe Bryant in the lineup, but now the team has to prepare for a Western Conference showdown against the surging San Antonio Spurs (40-15).
Although the Spurs fell to the Utah Jazz to snap an 11-game winning streak, head coach Gregg Popovich chose to rest Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan prior to the big game against the Lakers.
There will be a lot of eyes watching this marquee matchup, and Los Angeles has to be hopeful that Bryant will be able to get back into the action on Wednesday night.
UPDATE: Kobe Bryant will miss his third straight game against the Spurs.
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
When: Wednesday, April 11, 8:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports Southwest (Spurs), KCAL 9 (Lakers)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Betting Line: Not available, according to Bovada.lv at 7:30 a.m. on April 10
Key Injuries: Kobe Bryant (shin), Jordan Hill (sprained MCL)
What They're Saying
The Lakers are going to need Bryant on the floor in order to keep up with an incredibly deep and talented Spurs team, but his availability remains up in the air.
Despite being listed as day-to-day, the shin injury has been painful for Bryant, a player known for playing through any injury.
Rest is the only way for Bryant's injury to completely heal, but the good news is that the grinding sensation is already gone (via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register):
Bryant’s situation has already improved, with Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti saying Monday that the grinding problem of the tendon being unable to slide freely inside Bryant’s inflamed sheath (the medical term is crepitus) has already ceased.
Most Important Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum, C, Los Angeles Lakers
Bynum has been a man on a mission this season, as evidenced by the improvement in his game.
Coming off two straight double-double performances, Bynum will have to shoot better than the combined 17-of-44 he's put forth during that span of time.
With DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw all seeing time in the middle for the Spurs, Bynum needs to establish himself early in the low post to exert his dominance against a San Antonio team that doesn't have a lot of height in the paint.
Key Matchup: Spurs bench vs. Lakers bench
With the Spurs having arguably the deepest roster in the entire league, it's going to be imperative for Mike Brown's second unit to contribute.
The Lakers received 19 points off the bench against the Hornets on Monday, but Los Angeles is going to need its bench mob to step up in a big way in order to stay competitive for the full 48 minutes.
San Antonio can let it fly from beyond the arc, so the Lakers will certainly be tested on perimeter defense, and any weaknesses in the reserve group will be exposed by a Spurs club that moves the ball very well.
Prediction: Lakers 97, Spurs 89