Los Angeles Lakers: 10 Reasons the Spurs Will Fall To Them in the Playoffs
With only one football game left remaining, we've officially reached the point where the casual NBA fan will take a glance at the standings and realize there are only 36 games left before he or she really starts to care.
For NBA die-hards like myself, we've been monitoring the standings on a daily basis since day 1 and when we take a look at the Western Conference standings, we see a couple of familiar faces at the top.
The San Antonio Spurs sit atop the West with a league leading 39-7 mark, on pace for nearly 70 wins. The number two seed is currently occupied by the Los Angeles Lakers at 33-13, a semi-distant 6 games out of first place.
Along with overall team health, home court advantage throughout the playoffs (particularly in the Finals) is perhaps the most important factor when determining why only one team is able to secure the necessary 16 wins it takes to win a championship over a two month span every spring.
How important is home court advantage? Look no further than last year's NBA Finals, do you think the Lakers enjoyed playing games 6 and 7 in the Staples Center instead of Boston?
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 reasons why the Spurs will still fall to the Lakers in the playoffs despite their current home court advantage.
The second units played a major role in determining the outcome of nearly every NBA Finals game last June. Expect this year to be no different.
The Lakers will boast a second unit that consists of Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes (out another 4-6 weeks with a knee injury), and a potential All-Star in Lamar Odom. That's 4 players who could all start on most NBA teams.
The Spurs bench consists of George Hill, Antonio McDyess (yes he is still in the league), Gary Neal, and Matt Bonner. Who would you pick in this game of 4 on 4?
9. Tim Duncan Is No Longer Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan will turn 35 years old during the playoffs this year and look no further than the stat sheet to see that his age is starting to show. Duncan is playing a career low 29 minutes a game while averaging a career low 13.6 points and 9.5 rebounds. He's also shooting a career low 48.3% from the field.
Duncan hyper-extended his knee on Monday night and although he appears to be fine, one has to wonder if a more severe injury isn't more likely now in his 14th season.
By comparison, he will be going up against a 23 year old center in Andrew Bynum, who continues to make progress after sitting out the first part of the season and would be much fresher than usual for this year's playoffs.
If Bynum can somehow manage to stay healthy (and that's a very big if), he would at the very least, neutralize Duncan, and possibly give the Lakers an advantage inside. Bynum had 19 points and 11 boards in a win over Utah on Tuesday night.
The Spurs have managed to stay uncharacteristically healthy so far this season and it would be a stretch to think they will make it through an entire NBA season without an injury to one of their core guys. Six of their top seven players have played every game so far this season, a truly amazing stat.
The Lakers have already overcome an injury to Bynum that cost him the first 24 games of the season and now an injury to Matt Barnes that could cost him anywhere from six to eight weeks.
Could the Spurs overcome injuries that cost a significant amount of time to two of their top seven players? Not likely...
7. Richard Jefferson Disappearing Act
It was a common belief that after a lackluster effort in his first season in San Antonio last year, Richard Jefferson had finally figured it out. He got off to a great start early this season but has slowly started to disappear, looking more and more like the same player we saw last year.
Jefferson has failed to reach double digits in six of his last eight starts, despite averaging over 30 minutes per contest. In fact, he is now averaging 12.2 points per game, which is not only lower than last season, but his lowest output since he entered the league in 2001 with the Nets.
6. Lack of a Go-To Guy, Kobe Vs Who?
If there is one thing you have to have during the playoffs, it's a go to guy during crunch time. We all know the Lakers have arguably the most clutch player of all time in Kobe Bryant, but who will the Spurs turn to with the game on the line?
Manu Ginobli is their leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, but doesn't exactly come to mind when listing off the most clutch players in the NBA. Ginobli is also only shooting 43% from the field.
Tony Parker averages 17.5 points per game, but is really a below average three point shooter at 32% from three this year. Who will the Spurs turn to? Whoever it is, he certainly won't be anywhere near the same player that Bryant is, thus, giving the Lakers a huge advantage at the end of tight games.
5. Defending The Three Point Line
The Spurs rank second to last in the NBA in defending the three point line, allowing their opponents to shoot nearly 40% from behind the arc. Only the historically bad Cleveland Cavaliers rank below them in this category.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are the 5th best team in opponents three point field goal percentage and it's something they pride themselves on. They were first in the league last year and third the year before that...a very hidden, yet important stat when determining who wins the NBA Championship.
Oh, did we mention the Lakers are shooting 36.7% from three point land? Keep an eye on this stat folks, it may be the single most important reason why the Spurs are unable to dethrone the two time defending champs.
4. Is Tony Parker's Head in The Game?
Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware of Parker's very public divorce from actress Eva Longoria. The couple filed for divorce in late 2010 after it was revealed that Parker was having an affair with the wife of a former teammate.
With his personal life in shambles, one can only wonder if Parker will suffer on the court the same way Tiger Woods did on the golf course when his infidelities were made public.
3. Phil's Last Stand
Phil Jackson announced that this year would be his "last stand" as head coach of the Lakers. Although we won't know for certain, it seems to be the appropriate time for Jackson to call it a career.
He's going for his 12th title and an unprecedented fourth Three-Peat. Does anyone really think an aging Spurs team can get in the way of this historic feat? Will David Stern let them considering the projected NBA Finals ratings? Just kidding...
2. The Lakers Quest For 17
After the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, they held a 17-14 lead in NBA Titles. But all of a sudden here we are in 2011 and the gap has closed to 17-16. The Celtics have always been known as the New York Yankees of the NBA, but that is all about to change.
Can the Spurs really stop the Lakers from their 17th NBA Title? When considering the history of the Lakers and Celtics rivalry, achieving this historic goal may be the single biggest driving force behind this year's Lakers team.
If the Spurs are the only thing standing in the way, do you really think Kobe is going to let them prevent this from happening? Speaking of...
1. Kobe's Pursuit of MJ As He Goes For Number 6
Kobe Bryant will be seeking his sixth NBA title and third consecutive NBA Finals MVP when the playoffs being in April. We are watching his legacy continue to grow every year as he ascends up the all time scoring charts and adds to his hardware collection every June.
There is no doubt that he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as MJ, and if he gets his sixth ring this year, he will be. There is no telling how many more rings he will win after this season, one could easily see him playing another six or seven seasons.
If there is one thing we know for certain, when Kobe wants something, he gets it, and no one, especially not the San Antonio Spurs, can stand in his way.