Keys to LA Lakers Surviving First Round of 2013 NBA Playoffs

J.M. PoulardContributor IIApril 22, 2013

Keys to LA Lakers Surviving First Round of 2013 NBA Playoffs

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    The Los Angeles Lakers entered the postseason as underdogs and consequently face slim odds of advancing past the first round. They will need to win a few key aspects if they plan on enjoying any type of success during the 2013 playoffs.

    Although Kobe Bryant is absent from the lineup and busy tweeting his thoughts during games, the Lakers still have some talent. Meshing it with execution is what will give them a chance at survival.

    Defeating the San Antonio Spurs certainly won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either. 

Twin Towers Dominance

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    The frontline tandem of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol has arguably been the best in the NBA during the month of April. In the final month of the regular season, the duo averaged 38.4 points, 22.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.

    In their first playoff game together, they were right on schedule. They produced similar numbers and had a big impact on the contest with their scoring, rebounding and playmaking.

    The one area where they struggled, however, was ball security. Howard and Gasol combined for 10 of the Lakers’ 19 turnovers, which gave the Spurs transition opportunities. Needless to say, reducing them is a must going forward.

    The series hinges on their talents. Their best might be better than anything the Spurs have up their sleeves.

More Metta World Peace

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    Metta World Peace must be a game-changer at both ends of the court. The forward is their best perimeter post player as well as a decent ball-handler in the half court. His offense is sorely needed against a San Antonio Spurs team that will give the Lakers’ big men multiple defensive looks.

    The Purple and Gold need World Peace’s timely perimeter shooting. In the event that he is missing them, bullying his way to the basket against smaller defenders is mandatory.

    In the opening postseason loss, the Laker forward was occasionally indecisive and thus settled for some low percentage jumpers. His size and strength are simply too much for the Spurs' perimeter players and he must use that to his advantage.

    During the regular season, World Peace only converted 38.9 percent of his shots in losses. In Game 1, he was 2-of-9 from the field.

Defending the Paint

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    Stating the Lakers must defend the paint sounds almost silly considering they held the Spurs to a mere 91 points in Game 1 of their best-of-seven matchup, but that is exactly the case.

    Mike D’Antoni’s defense was excellent in the opening game of the series against the Spurs. Howard and Gasol were huge deterrents at the basket. Per Hoopdata, the Spurs only converted 11 of 22 shots directly at the rim on their way to 32 points in the paint.

    Tim Duncan was terrific early on against the Lakers, but they clamped down on him and forced tough shots from the future Hall of Fame big man the rest of the way.

    D’Antoni’s unit must continue playing tough interior defense and push the Spurs into playing out on the perimeter.

    Consider this little nugget: The Spurs converted nine of 31 mid-range shots against the Lakers in Game 1 of their head-to-head matchup per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.

    If they keep Gregg Popovich’s team away from the basket, it enhances their chances of winning games and consequently the series.

Bench Production

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    Simply put, the Lakers need bench production. Although it’s not necessarily about producing points, the second unit must absolutely have an impact.

    This can come in the form of scoring, rebounding and defense.

    In the first contest of their playoff series, the Spurs generated 40 points and 11 rebounds on 13-of-31 shooting.

    On the other hand, the Lakers’ second unit produced 10 points and three rebounds on 2-of-8 shooting from the field. Unless the Laker starters are playing like gangbusters, that won’t cut it.

Shifting Defenses

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    It’s worth noting the Lakers have not done this once this season. However, changing up the defensive looks on occasion might be a great tactic against the Spurs.

    More specifically, Mike D’Antoni should consider a half-court trap.

    The Lakers forced nine turnovers and scored two fast break points in their opening playoff game. That’s simply not enough.

    The Purple and Gold’s inability to make shots ultimately doomed them. Hence, selectively speeding up the game might just be in the cards.

    If properly executed, a half-court trap will change the tempo of the game and produce rushed shots and a few turnovers. This is a perfect way for D’Antoni to get players such as Earl Clark and Darius Morris some easy looks.

    There is no way the Lakers can win this series while simply converting 41.1 percent of their shots like they did in Game 1. Consequently, they need role players getting a few easy buckets and this is the way to go.