Kobe Bryant was challenged recently by Phil Jackson, who also won't allow the Lakers to replicate Miami's poor defensive performance at San Antonio
It was raining inside the AT&T center in San Antonio on Friday night.
Raining threes, that is.
The Miami Heat were in need of a statement game after blowing big leads in consecutive games that resulted in losses. Instead, they got embarrassed and head back to Florida with a 30-point loss under their belts for a game with the surging Bulls while the Spurs get to host the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The two games highlight Sunday’s NBA action, and are a bit related.
"It’s very rare," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about the Spurs' shooting performance against Miami, where they hit 17 shots from three-point range. "It doesn’t happen that often and I’m going to go ahead and guess we’re not going to have that many threes…maybe next year we’ll do it once."
That means it probably won’t happen again on Sunday. Especially against the Lakers.
San Antonio is an impressive 29-2 at home with a veteran, experienced team that has been playing together for quite awhile. They also defeated the Lakers twice this season, including a 15-point win at home in December.
In that game, the Lakers were a 3.5-point underdog. Since then the Spurs have gone 24-7, including 11 straight wins at home en route to a 29-2 record in their building.
Interestingly and despite their continued success that includes a 30-point win over Miami, they are favored by only 2.5 points this time.
Earlier in the week Lakers coach Phil Jackson challenged Kobe Bryant by suggesting the star might not know the offense as well as he should. Being the mastermind he is, and with Kobe being the competitor he is, Jackson knows this will fuel the superstar down the stretch.
Since losing at Cleveland in surprise fashion, the Lakers have won six games in a row and will be taking on their toughest task yet, but one must wonder how much energy and shooting stroke the Spurs will have left after such a performance where they set a franchise record for three-point shots made.
Don’t expect Phil Jackson and the Lakers to replicate the poor defensive effort Miami gave, which leads to the day’s other feature game.
Earlier in the week, the Heat lost big leads at home to the Knicks and Magic and also lost both games. Needing a comeback of their own at San Antonio, they got the opposite from the start as the Spurs raced out to a 24-point lead at the end of a quarter. Now they return home against a very good Bulls team fresh off a win at Orlando.
Like San Antonio, one must wonder how much gas the Bulls will have left in the tank to knock off both Miami and Orlando consecutively, especially with LeBron James and company fresh off a big embarrassment.
What will be the outcome of these games?
On the flip side, one must also expect the Heat as a team to step up the defensive effort after such a poor performance at San Antonio. A Nationally televised game in front of their home crowd would be a good time to repair their damaged ego.
Miami is listed as about a five-point favorite over the Bulls, but this is a game they will want to win convincingly. Rebounding will be a key to the game, as Chicago leads the league in that category and even grabbed 50 rebounds in Orlando compared to just 30 for Dwight Howard and the Magic.
Both teams are mostly healthy now and the Spurs have Tony Parker back. Derek Fisher is probable for the Lakers after getting hurt in their last game against the Bobcats. Fisher is a tough guy; he's started 476 consecutive regular season games. That's the longest streak among active players.
Sunday will provide an opportunity for both the Lakers and Heat to avoid losing their third game in a row to their respective opponents this season.
Considering the Spurs are coming off their best game while the Lakers are eager to prevent it from happening to them, and the Bulls catching Miami at a bad time, look for exactly that to happen, with at least one or both the Lakers and Heat covering the point spreads.