When playing the Spurs, the Lakers frontline will have to face the biggest challenge for a power forward/center in the NBA: Trying to defend Tim Duncan in a seven game series.
Unlike the Suns, or should I say, "pre-Shaq Suns," the Spurs will love an opportunity to set up a half-court offense where Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker can dominate.
Duncan is the catalyst on this team. His presence alone makes the Spurs better. He brings championship experience, post presence, and winning leadership. Duncan will try to put the Lakers frontline in foul trouble early on to keep them on the bench.
The Lakers bench is very deep, however, and they can live with Chris Mihm and Ronny Turiaf playing extensive minutes in the post. Mihm was a solid starting center for LA last year. Nevertheless, they will need to keep the offensive firepower of the Gasol/Bynum duo on the floor for as long as possible.
As most big-time post player matchups play out, both teams will try to put the each other’s big men in foul trouble. Duncan is excellent at getting to the line and Phil Jackson will have to be very cautious regarding his choice for Duncan’s defender.
Same goes for Greg Popovic who will have his hands full with 7'0" Bynum, 7'0" Pau Gasol, and 6'10" Lamar Odom (assuming, of course, that Jackson will have them all on the floor at the same time very often).
Let's not forget that Duncan is a perennial All-NBA defensive first team member who has been defending the likes of Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, and Chris Webber throughout his career.
The Lakers are clearly lacking the defensive presence in the post that the Spurs have. The Spurs are also very deep inside. Duncan is an excellent defender while Robert Horry, Fabricio Oberto, and Francisco Elson each have six fouls to give and are reliable big men, especially Big Shot Rob, who has been defending great post players in the playoffs all his career and will lure his defender away from the basket with his three-point shooting ability.
Offensively, this will give Tim Duncan more room to work down low. It will also allow Parker and Ginobili to penetrate inside as one of the shot-blockers will have to stay at home with Horry.
The Lakers are taller than the Spurs and if defensive wiz Bruce Bowen will spend the whole game defending Kobe, Ginobili would have to try to contain Odom. If the Lakers can establish Odom in the post early, Ginobili will have trouble defending him because of the massive height difference.
This would mean that the Spurs would have to double team Odom inside. Since Lamar is a much better passer than scorer, he will have no trouble finding Fisher, Vujacic, and Radmanovic for wide-open three-pointers and Bynum and Gasol for dunks inside.
On the other hand, there is no way that Lamar Odom will be able to stay close to Ginobili on offense. Manu is quick and adept at penetrating through defense and getting to the line. He should have a great series against the LA since the Lakers certainly have not improved their defense with the arrival of Gasol. Provided he will not be affected by Odom’s play inside, Ginobili will be a major factor for the Spurs.
This brings us to another major factor for the Spurs: last year’s NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker. As experienced a defender as Derek Fisher is, he will not be able to stay in front of a cat-quick Parker in a seven game series. Expect Parker to drop 25 points on LA every game.
The defending champs will not give up their title easily and Parker will be on a mission to prove that he is one of the top point men in the league who can consistently deliver in the playoffs.