LA Lakers Playoff Schedule: TV Info and Predictions for First Round

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LA Lakers Playoff Schedule: TV Info and Predictions for First Round
USA TODAY Sports

On the last day of the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers were relieved when the Utah Jazz faltered and gave them a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. However, seemingly unsatisfied, they then went out and beat the Houston Rockets—in overtime—to secure the No. 7 seed.

Earlier on Wednesday, L.A. fans weren’t even convinced their team would be in the postseason, but the Lakers once again battled through adversity and are now positioned to contend for a championship.

The uphill climb starts in the first round, where the Lake Show will take on the No. 2 seeded San Antonio Spurs. They aren’t the most ideal draw, but L.A. matches up well against the Spurs, especially in comparison to some of the younger, more athletic teams in the conference.

Regardless, it’s going to be a struggle to win each and every game, but the Lakers have the talent to shock the world and win the Finals. Should they accomplish this quest, they would become the lowest seed in league history to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Let’s take a closer look at L.A.’s opening series, including where to watch each game, what to expect and a prediction on the outcome.

 

Schedule 

Game

When

Where

Watch

Game 1

Sunday, April 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.

ABC (Regional)

Game 2

Wednesday, April 24 at 9:30 p.m. ET

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.

TNT

Game 3

Friday, April 26 at 10:30 p.m. ET

Staples Center, Los Angeles, Cali.

ESPN

Game 4

Sunday, April 28 at 7 p.m. ET

Staples Center, Los Angeles, Cali.

TNT

Game 5*

Tuesday, April 30

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.

N/A

Game 6*

Thursday, May 2

Staples Center, Los Angeles, Cali.

N/A

Game 7*

Saturday, May 4

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.

NA

*If necessary.

 

Regular-Season Overview

Record: 45-37

Points Leader: Kobe Bryant (27.3)

Rebounds Leader: Dwight Howard (12.4)

Assists Leader: Steve Nash (6.7)

 

First-Round Series vs. San Antonio Spurs

Biggest Strength

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers are going to need to dominate the boards if they are going to surpass the Spurs in this series. Fortunately, L.A. is built to succeed in this department and has the personnel to keep the Spurs’ bigs off the glass.

During the regular season, Los Angeles finished fourth in the league with 44.8 total rebounds per game. What makes this stat most impressive is that they tied for just 13th in offensive boards, with a mere 10.9 per game.

Clearly, the Lakers are capable of dominating in that department, but the aging core of players often had to turn and hustle back down the court to set up their defense. Against the slower Spurs, L.A. is going to be able to work a few extra seconds under the rim and scrap for second-chance opportunities.

Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Earl Clark, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison each have great size for frontcourt players and all project to be a nightmare for the opponent to box out and contain on the glass.

 

Glaring Weakness

Without Kobe Bryant in the lineup, the Lakers are lacking a go-to threat on the perimeter.

Of course, coach Mike D’Antoni is going to once again make adjustments to accentuate the positives—i.e. have Steve Nash dump the ball down into the low-post for Howard or hit Gasol on the elbow to start the offense—but when things break down, it’s going to get ugly.

Kobe was adept at making things happen from nothing, whether it was taking his man off the dribble, firing up a jumper from anywhere on the court or driving into the paint and dishing it off to an open teammate.

With Mamba out of the picture, it is hard to see someone like Jodie Meeks or Steve Blake picking up the slack and creating for themselves and teammates.

 

Best Matchup: Dwight Howard vs. Spurs frontcourt

USA TODAY Sports

D12 is going to be a nightmare for San Antonio to contain. The big man has stepped up in a huge way since Bryant went down, putting up a ridiculous 42 points, 35 rebounds, seven blocks, five steals and two assists in the two games since the infamous Achilles injury occurred.

This is the reason the Lakers were willing to give up so much last summer to acquire the superstar center, even though there is no guarantee he remains in Los Angeles past this season. He’s a bona fide superstar and is capable of carrying a team to great heights when he is playing his best.

Now that he’s no longer limited by Bryant’s numerous touches and constant need for the ball, Howard can focus on being the main option, calling for the rock down low and making things happen around the rim.

Remember, Superman once dragged a mediocre Orlando Magic team to the Finals—against the Lakers, coincidentally—and, if he keeps bringing it, has the ability to take this team there.

 

Worst Matchup: Tony Parker vs. L.A. guards

USA TODAY Sports

Parker is a criminally underrated contributor to the Spurs' sustained success over the past decade or so. He’s arguably the best player on the roster, at this juncture, and is capable of absolutely decimating defenses. His presence and skill set opens the door for San Antonio to run its offense.

By that, we mean shoot corner threes and take efficient shots at the basket, two things that the Spurs do as well as any team in the league.

Because of his quickness, agility and balance, Parker is one of the toughest point guards in the league to stop. He may not be as explosive as Russell Westbrook or quick as Rajon Rondo, but the 30-year-old is nimble as they come and possesses a high basketball I.Q.

We suspect D’Antoni is going to have nightmares figuring out how to stop him, especially knowing the defensive capabilities—or lack thereof—of Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and the rest of the backcourt rotation in L.A.

It’s best to concede that Parker is going to be the one getting his numbers, so the rest of the team needs to step up, stay at home on their man and not concede the corner trey or high percentage shot from the paint.

 

Key Player: Pau Gasol

Gasol is going to be the lynchpin for the Lakers this postseason. The veteran forward will determine if the team advances deep and challenges for the Western Conference crown, or gets shellacked by the Spurs in the first round.

If he’s able to sustain the type of play that netted 20 rebounds, 17 points and 11 assists against the Rockets on Wednesday, it’s going to be hard to overcome the Lakers this spring.

The seven-footer is one of the best playmakers in the league, for his position, and is always looking to set up his teammates when he receives the ball. He’s an outstanding rebounder on both ends of the court and a gifted scorer who can put up points in bunches.

San Antonio will likely throw a variety of looks and different players at him, including Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, but the Spaniard has the chops to beat these great defenders when he’s on his game.

Keep a close eye on Gasol, as the big man the unheralded key to the Lakers' success.

 

Prediction

While things are certainly going to be close, we are giving the edge to the Los Angeles Lakers and predicting they beat the San Antonio Spurs in six games.

Which team will win the series?

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Even without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are still a better team, on paper, than the Spurs. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have both stepped up in a huge way in the past two games and just need to continue battling with that sense of urgency.

Should they be able to do so, there is simply no way that the aging Spurs, who are slumping at the wrong time, will win. Remember, San Antonio is coming into the postseason having lost its last three games and is just 3-6 during the month of April.

Considering L.A. is in the midst of a five-game winning streak, we foresee the Lake Show stealing one at the AT&T Center and gaining control of the series early. They are not relinquishing that control until Game 6, when they advance in front of the hometown crowd. 

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