When they were 13-1, many were claiming that they hadn’t played any team of significance; however, after proving themselves in wins against New Orleans, Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers, many have retracted negative statements and have jumped on the bandwagon of the Spurs hype.
Still, some believe that the Spurs will choke and slip towards the end—as most Texas teams do—and the Lakers will have their chance to get the three-peat they so desperately say they want.
Well, if it’s a championship the city of Los Angeles craves, there’s only one thing to say: Fat chance, Lakers fans.
The team everyone so sickeningly worships is on a bad road to Nowheresville and Head Coach Phil Jackson seems to agree, given their recent performances.
The Western Conference championship usually comes down to the Lakers and the Spurs.
Since 1999, the teams have met in the NBA playoffs five times. Both teams combined won every NBA championship from 1999 to 2003.
The Spurs won the NBA championship in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007; the Lakers won the championship in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.
Will it come down to The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals? Yes, it’s almost as if it’s been engraved and foretold.
Will the Lakers push forward and win their sixth ring in just 12 years? It’s highly doubtful.
What is it the Spurs have that the Lakers are lacking this year? Pretty much everything.
The obvious, though: Their current records and wins.
The Spurs, as previously mentioned, have the best in the league right now. Granted, one of their losses came to the Los Angeles Clippers (10-24), but three of four of their losses came by a less than 10-point margin.
As for the Lakers (23-11), they’ve been less than impressive. Five of their 11 losses have been on their home court; two of their last four losses at home were lost by more than 10 points against less-than-average teams, Memphis and Milwaukee.
Yes, at this point last year, the Lakers were 23-6 and the year before they were 27-5 and still managed to win the championship, but their losses weren’t to shabby teams. They were losing to teams like Cleveland (a team that still had LeBron) Denver (a very “Space Jam” Mon-Star like team with Carmelo and Co.), and Phoenix with Nash.
Furthermore, Phil Jackson said it best when he said Kobe screwed up the game by going one-on-one against Memphis this past weekend.
As good as each individual player is, the Lakers are going to have to step up and play as a team or their chances of a title will be as great as their one-man team.
The Lakers' biggest problem might be the Spurs' one big advantage, though. The Spurs have equally amazing talent (although half the team has more experience then the rest), but they are capable of pulling together as a team to ensure success.
In December, the Spurs scored a high of 40 points in just the third quarter against Phoenix.
More so, for the last five games, Manu has scored, on average, 12.8 points per game, Tim Duncan has scored 11.4 points per game and Tony Parker has managed 17.4. It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that the team’s three big stars' stats aren't scoring all those points by themselves.
The team is playing…well, like a team.
The lowest average amongst the starters for the Spurs is nine points per game by Richard Jefferson; on the contrary, Lakers starters Ron Artest and Derek Fisher are averaging 7.0 and 4.6 points, respectively.
Interestingly enough against the Lakers last week, Tim Duncan and Manu were on the bench before the final buzzer, and not because of a bad game or lack of focus—the remainder of the team has just been able to keep the momentum going on the court, making it that much easier for the Spurs to prevail.
Kobe was frustrated about his team's lack of focus following the Heat loss on Christmas Day, but had a more quiet presence at the end of their third straight loss. At one point, Kobe missed 13 shots in a row against the Spurs.
The Lakers dropped to 21-10, marking the first time since 2007 that they have reached 10 losses this early in the season. Yes, 2007—the last year the Spurs won the championship.