With the All-Star break almost here, time to look ahead towards the postseason, with one of several potential Western Conference match-ups very well being against the currently red hot San Antonio Spurs. Over the last six years, the Spurs now hold a 11-9 edge on the Lakers, however, in the 2007-08 Conference Finals, the Lakers won in fashion, 4-1 to face the Boston Celtics in the finals.
The Spurs currently hold the top ranking in the Western Conference, with a 46-9 record and have two crucial wins over the Los Angeles Lakers. Between both meetings this season, the Lakers averaged 88 points compared to the Spurs' 93. In both games, Bryant averaged 18.3 points a game, while Tony Parker averaged 22 points per game.
The Spurs won the critical turnover battle in the first game, however, both teams tied in game two. Poor ball handling has been somewhat of a problem for the Lakers, and if a third straight title is to be won, they will need to work on cleaning up the little things. And while it may come as of a surprise, in both games Ron Artest scored double digits, compared to what has been a weak scoring period so far for the sophomore Laker.
Tim Duncan averaged five points between the two contests, remarkably low considering he's at 13.4 on the season, so something was done right here. That defense will be required again if the Lakers should meet the Spurs in the postseason and look to advance onwards.
Andrew Bynum had a double-double in the second meeting and scored in double digits the first time around coming off the bench. So far he has good nights, all right and then lackluster nights. Finding that right groove has been tough for the five-year player, however, his knee has held strong so far which is good news.
While the Lakers lost both games, they averaged 38.9 percent shooting compared to the Spurs 41.8 percent and won the free-throw percentage both times and are currently averaging more than the rest of the league in both stats. That last number could be beneficial as free throws can become huge daggers late in a game, just look at last year's game seven against the Celtics.
There are two meetings remaining against the Spurs, one in March and April. The Lakers have a favorable schedule in March with a seven-game home stretch which will prove to be costly should the Lakers wish to increase their chances of a top-seed. The Spurs will find themselves on the road in March eight times, with two triple road game trips.
The Spurs are 21-7 on the road this season while the Lakers are 19-10 on the road. Home-court advantage with the fans is always something the Lakers strive to gain and hold throughout the postseason, however, they know how to win on the road and have done so in the past. All that remains is the team putting together a simple game plan and executing. You can never worry about what the other team is and the Lakers are the only team in control of their own destiny.
Inconsistency is another problem for the Lakers lately. Collectively, the team made a better effort on making shots in round two, however, they were all over the place in the first meeting and it hurt them down the stretch as they lost by fifteen in the end. Make smart passes, take good shots and they will do just fine.
Keys to defeating the Spurs in the postseason: Limit Tim Duncan as much as possible, find open shots, rebound on both sides of the floor and always box out. Need more consistency from the three bigs down in the paint and Kobe needs to do what Kobe does. I believe the pieces are there, but their destiny sits in their own hands. Time to put up some wins or head home.
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