The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs will start their first round playoff series on Sunday, at the usual time for the marquee game, 12:30 PM Pacific time on ABC. We will take a look at the schedule, team strengths, injuries, key players i n the series and relevant statistics.
Lakers and Spurs Stats:
Kobe Bryant: Torn Achilles – Out for season
Jordan Hill: Hip injury – Out for series
Steve Nash: Sore Hamstring – Expected to play in game 1
Out: Boris Diaw – Back surgery – Out for series
Playing but Limited:
Manu Ginobli: Strained right hamstring
Tony Parker: ankle injury
What the Spurs do well on Offense:
Pick and Roll: The San Antonio Spurs are one of the best in the league in the pick and roll and that is due to having one of the best pick and roll players in the league, Tony Parker. Expect the Spurs to run the pick and roll ad nauseam against the the Lakers who are one of the worse in the league at defending this play. A little more than 1 of every 5 plays (22.3 percent) of the Spurs plays come via the pick and roll and they are efficient. Almost half of Tony Parkers’ plays (45.7 percent) are pick and roll as the ball handler and shoots an efficient 50.2% in these sets.
Tony Parker’s health is vital to the Spurs success on offense. Much like Kobe Bryant for the Lakers, Tony Parker is a big part of what the Spurs do on offense. If Tony Parker is healthy, the Lakers will have an almost impossible time containing the Spurs highly efficient offense which feeds off the pick and roll and spot up shooting; both weaknesses of the Lakers on the defensive end.
3 point shooting:
The Spurs have shooters galore in the perimeter. The Spurs are 5th in the league in 3 point efficiency at 37.5 percent. The Spurs have 8 players that might get playing time in this series that shoot 35% or better from behind the arc; three that shoot 40 percent or better. As expected with a Popovich led team, most of the Spurs shooters are judicial about launching them up from behind the arc. Danny Green is the closest to a gunner, shooting 5.2 three pointers a game and hits them at a very good 42.9% rate.
The Spurs seem to do well on offense what the Lakers struggle do defend on defense. The Lakers slow perimeter defense will have a hard time getting back to all of the Spurs shooters.
What the Spurs do well on Defense:
The Spurs are a great defensive team overall; however, their strength by far is defending the post. With Tim Duncan leading the way by protecting the paint, the Spurs give up just 0.78 points per possession and opponents shoot a paltry 39.4% in the post.
The Spurs post defense will be tested mightily against the Lakers front line of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. The Lakers will be dependent on running their offense through the post without Kobe Bryant and a limited Steve Nash. If the Spurs can at least slow down the post attack of the Lakers they can essentially shut down the Lakers offense as they will not have many other options to go to if their post attack fails.
What the Lakers do well on Offense:
You will need to throw out every season team statistic for the Lakers as they are completely different team now without Kobe Bryant. They will change yet again if Steve Nash can return and play close to his normal self.
In the Lakers last 2 games of the season the Lakers offense has struggled. They’ve shot 36 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3 point land. Lacking a player that can break down a defense and create shots for himself or for others the Lakers have been pounding the post with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. In the last 2 games, the Lakers have gone 17 for 43 from the post, shooting a low 39.5 percent. Post plays have accounted for 25 percent of all of the Lakers shots in the offense. The Lakers didn’t fair well against the Spurs in the post in their last game, going 7 for 21. The Lakers were much more improved in their final game against the Rockets, going 10 for 22 in the post.
While the Lakers were not all that successful against the Spurs in the post in their last match up, it is the Lakers strength with Howard and Gasol, and they will continue to run their offense inside-out.
What the Lakers do well on Defense:
Earlier in the season this section would probably need to be left blank or marked N/A. That has changed over the last 2 games however, where the Lakers have played inspired team defense. The Lakers last 2 games, they held the potent offenses of the Spurs and Rockets to 37 and 41 percent shooting respectively. The Lakers have done it with much improved foot speed and responsiveness on the perimeter. Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and Darius Morris have been the active and impressive guarding the perimeter. The improved resistance from the opposing guards has given Dwight Howard the additional time he’s needed to affect shots in the post.
The Lakers do limit teams to one possession. The Lakers are the tied with the Denver Nuggets for the NBA lead in rebounding at 54.6. The continued rebounding success for the Lakers is key to keeping the machine that is the Spurs offense in check.
The Lakers will need more of the same defensive intensity in order to compete against the highly efficient Spurs offense. The perimeter will be tested if the Spurs have a healthy Tony Parker who can potentially pick and roll the Lakers to death.
It really comes down to health in this series. If Tony Parker is at least 80% and they can get something out of Manu Ginobli, the Spurs’ offense will be just too much for the Lakers too handle.
The Lakers offense lacks diversity without Kobe and Nash. If Nash can play and be effective, he will improve the Lakers offense immensely. Nash will add a much needed mid range game, additional shooter, a player that can create for himself and others. These facets were missing in the Lakers offense over the last 2 games where the Lakers became post and 3 point shot reliant. The only problem with Nash is that the Lakers will also have to take step back defensively.
It doesn’t help the Lakers that everything they do well on offense, is the Spurs strength on defense. The biggest weakness of the Lakers on defense, which is the pick and roll, is what the Spurs do so well.
So, if Tony Parker is right, the Spurs in 6. If not, and Steve Nash can play well, its the Lakers in 6.