Time: Tuesday, November 13th, 10:30 p.m. ET
Records: Los Angeles Lakers (3-4), San Antonio Spurs (6-1)
Betting Line: Spurs -1 (Vegas Insider Consensus)
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Tony Parker (illness), questionable
Steve Nash (leg), out
Steve Blake (abdomen), out
Key Matchup: Tim Duncan, C/PF, Spurs vs. Dwight Howard, C, Lakers
Had the NBA not shunned the center position from the All-Star ballot, this could have been a battle for the starting spot on the Western Conference team.
Of course, with a combined 18-consecutive All-Star appearances, it's not likely that either is in danger of not making the cut.
This is the classic matchup of smarts (Duncan) versus strength (Howard).
Outside of the rare Magic-Spurs matchups, Duncan and Howard have not faced off with each other often.
Howard's postgame is a work in progress, and that could be enough to give the wily veteran, Duncan, as much of an advantage as he'll need.
Duncan might have the most extensive array of post moves since the days of Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Then again, Howard can do this.
I'll go out on a limb and say that Duncan's never even fathomed attempting that.
This will be a can't-miss matchup of two of the most talented bigs in today's NBA...provided the backup point guards (assuming Parker cannot play) can find them in the post.
Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs
For once, Ginobili's scoring numbers finally look like what one would expect from a reserve player.
He's already missed two games, and has looked like anything but a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with pedestrian averages of 8.8 points on 40.0 percent shooting.
Ginobili may see an uptick in his distributing responsibilities should Parker be held out of the game.
Popovich may need Ginobili to be both initiator and scorer.
He has the talent to fill both roles, as long as he feels 100 percent.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers
Bryant may no longer have the athleticism he displayed as a preps-to-pros leaper, but then again, there aren't many 34-year-olds with these kind of hops.
The early-season struggles of his teammates have largely not affected Bryant's production, as the Black Mamba has tallied 26.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 35.9 minutes.
But if there's one area of his game that has seen a decline, it's the 4.0 turnovers that he's averaged through seven games (which would be the second-highest average of his career).
Critics may blame Bryant's turnovers on Mike Brown's ineffective Princeton offense, but Nash's absence (he's missed all but two of the Lakers' games) have forced Bryant into playing more of a distributor role.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, Spurs
If Leonard is simply a defensive stopper and hustle player, he's already one of the best hustlers that the game has seen in recent seasons.
His energy is a welcome addition to this veteran-laden roster, but it's his consistently sound decision-making that's allowed him to log major minutes (28.6) in Popovich's rotation.
He's every bit the defensive stopper that scouts thought he would be when he entered the 2011 NBA draft (evidenced by his 2.1 steals and 5.1 rebounds), but he has more in his offensive repertoire than say a Tony Allen or Thabo Sefolosha.
Leonard will need to delve deep in that offensive arsenal to help the Spurs keep pace with the Lakers.
Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers
If there's ever going to be a game that screams breakout opportunity for Gasol, this could be it.
Duncan will have his hands full with Howard, so the 7'0" Gasol should have the luxury of abusing the 6'8" Boris Diaw and the 6'7" DeJuan Blair.
Now, if we've learned anything over the past few seasons it's this: Do not count on production from Gasol. He shows up when he's least expected and disappears as soon as he's garnered the slightest attention.
His 41.4 percent shooting could mark the fourth consecutive decrease in field-goal percentage.
Prediction: Spurs 113, Lakers 103
Things may not look pretty, particularly with Nash sidelined.
Among the Lakers' myriad problems—and one that may take more than a coaching change to fix—has been the team's lack of depth.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a worse quality to match up against the talent-rich Spurs.
San Antonio boasts seven different players averaging at least eight points per game; the Lakers have just four.
An injury-depleted roster simply will not get it done against a Popovich-led Spurs team, with or without Parker.
These two clubs do not meet again until the Lakers travel to San Antonio on January 9th, 2013. There's a great chance that the Lakers will find a victory in that contest.
But that will be their chance to even this series at one game apiece.