There's no doubt the Lakers are currently the best team in the West and in the NBA. Here are the three keys for the San Antonio Spurs so they can retain the top spot in the West and be in next year's NBA Final.
Key No. 1—Manu Ginobili
For the past two years, the Spurs have gotten used to seeing the image of Ginobili being injured, either playing sub par like he did a couple of years ago, or not even playing at all.
Without Ginobili the Spurs have no chance of ever being what they used to be. He provides clutch scoring, amazing defense, and a will to win that even rivals Kobe Bryant. The bad thing is the Spurs' title hope single-handedly lie in Ginobili's two increasingly fragile ankles.
If the Spurs want to win, Ginobili is not only going to have to be healthy, but he's also going to have to return to the all-star level.
Key No. 2—The Bench
The Spurs' bench played terrible this year, and as a result they were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs. Although they played bad this year, the Spurs bench isn't necessarily bad.
Roger Mason is an amazing shooter who just happened to run out of gas, Hill is a tough, athletic, defensive minded combo guard, and guys like Bonner, Udoka, and Gooden provide either good defense or an ability to score timely baskets.
The bench suffered this year because of their role players, and with Ginobili out they were asked to create their own shots when they usually rely on the creativity of Ginobili to get them open shots. Expect them to be clicking on all cylinders with the return of Ginobili.
Key No. 3—Defense
The Spurs aren't winning anything without a return to their defensive prowess period. To be able to beat the Lakers, the key is not stopping Kobe, but stopping everyone else. Given Kobe is going to get his, it's too much of a high risk trying to beat LA by stopping Kobe.
If on a rare day he somehow is off, he's going to get other players involved and with players like Pau Gasol, LA is going to win. If the Spurs focus their defensive plan on stopping Kobe's complimentary players, Kobe is asked the role of providing most of the Lakers points.
Kobe will probably end up scoring around 50, but no one else would score above double figures for the Lakers. This ultimately means a scoring championship for Bryant, but a trip to the Finals for the Spurs.