Hey, it's a Game Preview! (#70): Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs

Whoa... it's a PREVIEW! Yes, we apologize for not having any of these in the past few games, but we (or at least I) will try to come up with some kickass previews for the remaining stretch of games, particularly this "3-game stretch of Death" (Lakers, Celtics, Cavs).

The fight for prime playoff positioning is heating up and this rat race will just get better folks, as we go down the regular season homestretch. I'm not sure if any of you watch the Amazing Race, but I find it interesting, especially when teams self-destruct. So, with all the pathetic 'chopping skills that I possess, I decided to go with that theme for today's preview because rightly so, it is indeed one hell of a race -- not only to the playoffs but to the championship as well.

Also, in honor of the upcoming NBA Jam game revival, there's some 2-on-2 involved, after the jump.

Before you read on, I suggest reading a couple of amazing posts about how the playoff race is shaping up in the West - yeah, because I'm too lazy to explain. No, seriously, brush up on the current situation before diving into the race madness below.


Race to the Playoffs: Old School NBA Jam-slash-Amazing Race Style

So, how are the playoff teams looking? I picked two players on each team and we'll take a look at their team profile, and what their amazing race/playoff prospects look like.

Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe and Pau

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Pau: "Coach, Kobe's ballhogging again!"

Race Rank: #1

Relationship Status: Dating

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Pau on Kobe: Takes too many shots; hot headed and ruthless; talks about Shaq in his sleep

Kobe on Pau: Looks and plays like a marshmallow dipped in hair; complains too much about his touches

Favorite Hobbies:

Pau - Playing summer basketball with national team; growing an unruly beard

Kobe - Watching videos of Michael Jordan; zen classes with Phil; prank calling Drew Bynum; disobeying the triangle offense

Lifelong To Do List:

Pau - Win an Olympic Gold medal; for Charles Barkley to finally acknowledge me as a tough guy; retire as a hermit in the Himalayas with a 50-foot beard

Kobe - Earn more rings than MJ and LeBron; beat Shaq in a rap showdown

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

Staying motivated. Don't back down from physical play. Remain committed to PJ's crazy zen buddhist philosophies, or at least pretend that we're committed to them. Destroy LeBron in the Finals (of course we're getting there), and finally retire the MVPuppets for good.

Denver Nuggets - Melo and Chauncey

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Melo: "I think I'll take over from here, old timer"
Chauncey: (thinks to himself) "Uh-oh... this does NOT look good."

Race Rank: Tied at #2

Relationship status: Friends with benefits

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Chauncey on Melo - Takes a lot of jumpers; a little cowardly - he bitchslapped another player once and then backpedaled; still not much of a leader

Melo on Chauncey - Slow-footed; still delusional about his "Mr. Big Shot" monicker; often brags about his championship ring

What are you passionate about?

Melo - Scoring, scoring, and more scoring. USA / international basketball. Playing and blowing out the Knicks. Plucking D'Antoni's pornstache.

Chauncey - Passing the ball, shooting threes. Telling my ex-Pistons buddies that I'm going to the playoffs while they're lottery-bound. Outcoaching George Karl.

People would be surprised to learn...

Melo - I once led Nene into believing that K-Mart's hotlips tattoo was the biggest hickey ever recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Chauncey - I once got caught stealing video rental coupons from a campus bookstore. True story.

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

Not self-destructing when the team is under severe duress. Turning coach's health concerns as motivation to win for him. Controlling JR Smith's wayward attitude and shot-happy ways. Keeping K-Mart and his mom away from trouble. Convincing the Birdman that he doesn't need another tat.

Dallas Mavericks - Dirk and The Jet

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Jet: "Okay, Dirk... you can put that gun back in the holster now. Seriously, dude, I'm smiling right now but it's not funny. AT ALL. Put the damn thing back before you shoot somebody!"

Race Rank: Tied at #2

Relationship status: Step-Brothers / Resident Playoff Chokers

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Terry on Dirk - Jumpshot-happy; listens to too much David Hasselhoff; still afraid of Nellie and the Warriors; does all of those weird German things

Dirk on Terry - Does that jet plane celebratory flight which annoys the hell out of everybody; celebrates too much, even on the smallest plays; punches people in the nuts; just an overall a-hole. Don't tell anybody I told you that.

Favorite hobbies:

Dirk - Listening to David Hasselhoff records and watching early seasons of Baywatch, Knight Rider and recently, America's Got Talent; trying out different shampoos for my hair; driving along the Autobahn; Oktoberfest!; secretly checking out my Nazi generals stamp collection

The Jet - roleplaying like a jetfighter; pulling off cheapshots against those damned Spurs; hitting big shots; picking on Erick Dampier's weight, contract and stats

What would you do if you won the NBA Championship?

Dirk - Call Steve Nash and tell him to suck it, and then celebrate by inviting him over for dinner.

Terry - I'll ask Mark Cuban to get me mechanical wings to replace my limbs, so I can finally realize my lifelong dream of flying.

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

Exorcising ghosts of playoff failures past. Play more consistent defense. Try not to celebrate too much after a first round victory. Ignoring Mark Cuban whenever he goes off against the refs. Supressing laughter when Coach Carlisle makes those funny facial expressions that make him look like Jim Carrey. Preventing David Hasselhoff from watching any Mavs playoff games.

Utah Jazz - Carlos and Deron

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Do you really think they like playing beautiful music together?

Race Rank: #4

Relationship status: Travelling Musicians who hate to travel

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Deron on Boozer - No team loyalty; secretly hates Coach Sloan

Boozer on Deron - Secretly envious of Chris Paul; grows those irritating sideburns; doesn't want to be the Stockton to my Malone

What are you passionate about?

Boozer - Banging inside the paint (TWSS); Reneging on verbal commitments; faking injury so I can watch marathon seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and 7th Heaven; beating Okur's ass in practice

Deron - Making sure Coach's system is implemented to perfection; dunking on taller people; ignoring Carlos on offense (sometimes); making fun of Kyle Korver's and Kirilenko's hair styles

People would be surprised to learn...

Boozer - That I really didn't want to play with LeBron that's why I left Cleveland. For realz.

Deron - I got my basketball genes from mom, who played in both the basketball and volleyball teams of West Liberty State College in West Virginia.

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

We play very physical but the refs are a bit more whistle-happy in the playoffs so we should be careful with that. Save for Deron, most of us disappear in the playoffs so we hope to change that. Okur is also soft and shoots too many threes. He should man up. Kirilenko should also step up and stop being a cry baby - his wife already gives him a "free pass" once in awhile. Plus, he earns franchise player-type of money. He should also fix his school-boy hair style. It gives us the creeps.

Phoenix Suns - A'm'a'r'e and Steve

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Steve: "This is sooo not fair. Why do I always have to take the role of a female?"

Race Rank: #5

Relationship status: Ex-lovers / Strange Bedfellows

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Steve on Amare - "STAT" is a pretty dumb nickname; he can't score when not set up with a good pass; selfish, me-first attitude; wears goggles that really doesn't look good on him (but does on me); doesn't play a lick of defense

Amare on Steve - Does those annoying "jumps in the air then makes a no-look pass" type of passes; insists on keeping his floppy hair which smells like burnt rubber; flops too much; doesn't play a lick of defense

Favorite Hobbies:

Amare - Dunking; Reading about myself in the newspapers and internet; showing everyone I'm the greatest post-microfracture surgery athlete ever; spamming Shawn Marion's email account with multilevel marketing BS; putting random apostrophes in my name whenever I feel like it

Steve - Racking up assists; periodically looking up at the scoreboard to check if we've hit 100 points by the 3rd quarter; playing soccer during my free time; creating amateur videos that make fun of my teammates; drawing fouls convincingly (absolutely NOT flopping); calling Mark Cuban after a win over Dallas and telling him to go F himself.

Lifelong To Do List:

Amare - Be "The Man" on my team; not having to play any defense at all and still win ballgames; become an endorser for microfracture patients all over the world

Steve - Win a championship; toss up an alley-oop for LeBron; play in the World Cup; sire a Chinese kid and make him one of the greatest comedians of all-time

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

Stern and his merry band of refs love our brand of basketball but always screw us in the end in favor of "defense"-first teams. We don't like to play defense but we should at least try, especially STAT. Robin Lopez should also unleash whatever creatures live in his hair to help our cause. J-Rich should also be careful about missing wide open dunks. Lastly, we need to avoid the Spurs, whatever it takes.

San Antonio Spurs - Timmeh and Manu

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Manu: "As usual, Tony bails out on us when the going gets tough. And where's my contract extension?"
Tim: "Maybe you should stop talking and concentrate on the next waaaaaveeee...yaaargh!"

Race Rank: #6

Relationship status: Star-crossed Furriners

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Manu on Tim - Can't jump to save his life; likes to shoot that old, boring bank shot of his; overall boring person with a boring game; wears those creepy-looking shoes that have icky skeleton feet for a design

Tim on Manu - Shiny bald spot keeps on getting bigger and can get distracting sometimes; no regard for human or animal life; too flashy for my taste; stubbornly insists on playing for his home country every summer

What are you passionate about?

Tim - Getting rebounds and blocked shots without jumping; shooting bank shots; being the anti-Kevin Garnett by becoming an example of quiet leadership; playing as gamemaster in Dungeons & dragons; teasing Tony about being a ballhog and being too Hollywood; psycho-analyzing my opponents

Manu - Playing for my national team; bat hunting; showing Tony how to make a good pass; using my Euro step; taking charges (absolutely NOT flopping, of course); coming off the bench; eating alfajores; befuddling John Hollinger's army of statisticians

People would be surprised to learn...

Tim - I motivate myself by summoning random Wild Beasts with 9,999 hit points and watching them destroy hapless Dungeons & Dragons nerds. I also don't jump during the regular season. And, I have selacophobia or a fear of sharks.

Manu - I have gimpy ankles. And I want to be a Spur for life. Totally.

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

We don't know if Tony will be up to speed when he returns. We should keep on avoiding the temptation to throw RJ under the bus if he disappears again. Also, Pop is crazy in love with small ball which is harmful for us. We should also figure out a way to make sure he's sober during games. Maybe we should replace the lock in his wine cellar. DeJuan Blair also needs to stop getting into foul trouble. Roger Mason Jr. is not a point guard, nor will he ever be one. He and his shot need to show up in the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Durantula and Russell

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Russell: "Look, KD! We're included in this playoff primer! Soooo cool."

Race Rank: #7

Relationship status: BFFs

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Westbrook on Durant - His arms are just too long, it makes me uncomfortable being around him. Plus, his frame looks like it can shatter into five thousand different places.

KD on Westbrook - He's not a point guard. He should pass me the ball more often.

Favorite Hobbies:

KD - Tweeting; beating Serge Ibaka in HORSE; body contortions; playing Mr. Fantastic in school plays; taking care of spiders

Russell - Playing defense; scoring; Hiding from angry Seattle fans who unfairly blame me for their Stern-related troubles

What would you do if you won the NBA Championship?

KD - Tweet it to my tweetas, then go back to the gym next day and figure out more ways on how to score.

Westbrook - Gee... I haven't thought of that yet. Maybe I'm just happy to be here?

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

We're young and viewed as inexperienced. We also have trouble defending pick-and-rolls despite our length. Also, Serge Ibaka owns Tim Duncan but we're scared TD might seek revenge in the playoffs. James Harden's beard is also a major distraction. It's just so awesome. Jay-Z concerts will also be a problem, especially if they're scheduled the day before a playoff game.

Portland Trailblazers - B.Roy and LaMarcus

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LMA: "Yo, B. You think we can still get a higher seed?"
Roy: "Shut up and gimme that stick so I can do some catching up already!"

Race Rank: #8

Relationship status: Classmates

Pet peeve about your teammate:

Aldridge on Roy - We were in the same draft class. He always brags about being picked lower and yet turned out to be the better player. Bah humbug. And he's so brittle. The dude's always getting injured.

Roy on Aldridge - If only he was half as good as I am, we would be playing for a higher seed. And he's so brittle. The dude's always getting injured.

What are you passionate about?

B.Roy - Playing in front of raucous Blazermaniacs; making clutch plays; learning the Spanish language from Rudy Fernandez; complaining about the rainy weather in Portland

LaMarcus - Midrange jumpers; playing video games; guessing Greg Oden's real age

If I could switch places with someone...

Roy - Kobe? Hmm... nah.

LaMarcus - Anyone but Greg Oden. Kidding, love ya, G.O.

Biggest challenge you and your partner will face in the Race together:

We're finally getting healthy but have yet to get it all together. We own the Lakers in our home floor but that's the regular season, and we're wary of LA playing playoff-level basketball. Rumors that our General Manager's job is on the rocks is also a distracrtion. But hey, at least he drafted Oden over Durant and passed on that bust, DeJuan Blair.


Okay, that was exhausting. The excitement's just beginning, beaches. There's still the preview, so I hope I didn't bore you much. Scroll down, and see who I have winning this chit.

**Disclaimer: I think I messed up the game times, so don't complain, mmkay?

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Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs
Where: AT&T Center - San Antonio, TX
When: March 24, 2010; 8:30 PM Spurs time
Watch: KENS HD, ESPN


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How They Stack Up
25-10 Home 32-5
17-17 Road 20-13
101.4
Offense 102.9
96.6 Defense 96.9
47.4 FG% 46.1
36.7
3-pt% 34.2
74.3
FT% 77.1
42.5
Rebounds 44.5
13.2
TOs 12.8
7-3 Last 10 7-3
Won 1
Streak Won 6
2nd, Southwest Position 1st, Pacific

Country/Time Zone Game Time
Argentina 11:30 AM
West Coast
6:30 PM
Philippines 9:30 PM
Central Europe 3:30 AM
Palestine/Egypt 4:30 AM
East Coast 9:30 PM
Snow Zone
7:30 PM
Perth, AUS 10:30 AM
Tokyo, JP 12:30 PM
Sydney, AUS 12:30 PM

Spurs
(42-27)
Matchups

Lakers
(52-18)

George Hill
Cubits

Point Guard

G. Hill, save for a stinker against Atlanta, has been admirably filling the shoes of Tony Parker in terms of scoring, and he's been bringing the defense, too. Georgie will most likely get the bulk of minutes guarding Kobe, and we can only hope that the super soph is up to the challenge.

D-Fish, meanwhile, is still a savvy veteran despite severely eroded athletic abilities, and will be looking to knock down those killer threes. But if the Spurs are to win, Tony must still dominate Fisher.

Advantage: Spurs


Derek Fisher
Memories of 0.4

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Manu Ginobili
Rebirth of The Sickness

Shooting Guard

This matchup should be a treat. Manu has been on fire as of late, and for sure, Kobe and Ron-Ron will take turns punishing the lithe Argentine on defense. I have faith that the Manu will overcome adversity.

But Kobe, broken fingers and all, is still the best shooting guard in the game. I won't argue with that just yet.

Advantage: Lakers


Kobe Bryant
Psychopath

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Richard Jefferson
Lookin' Like $14 mil

Small Forward

RJ's stinker last game can be forgiven after playing a great stretch of games. However, if RJ is to show any indication that he has indeed finally gotten it together, this is the game to show it. Ron Artest is an attack dog drooling to destroy Princess Peanut's fragile psyche. Yikes.

Advantage: Tied


Ron Artest
Pillsbury Crazyboy

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Tim Duncan
Ibaka'd

Power Forward

Without Bynum, expect Tim to be matched up more often with Pau, and maybe Odom at times. I've been wary about the slight dip in his performance after the All-Star break, but let's hope he's just stepping off the gas pedal a bit in order to save his best for the playoffs.

Lamar Odom is simply a match up nightmare for any team. Let's hope the inconsistent side of him shows up for this game.

Advantage: Spurs


Lamar Odom
Lamar Kardashian

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Antonio McDyess
Dice

Center

Dice, like Timmeh, has sort of slowed down as the regular season nears its end. Still, you gotta give it to the old man for bravely banging inside and grabbing those precious rebounds. Despite Bynum's absence, the Lakers' length is still a problem so SAM's contributions on defense will be sorely needed.

Pau Gasol is good. Really good. Can Memphis give us his brother to even things out a little bit?

Advantage: Lakers


Pau Gasol
S'mores

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Malik Hairston
Free Malik!

Bench & Role Players

Odom and Manu are the centerpieces of their respective teams' excellent bench play. Without them, their team's bench strength significantly dwindles. Still, I have faith that the Spurs bench, assuming that Mase's shot is back, Bonner will still shoot well, and Blair wants to make up for a subpar game against the Lakers last meeting, will prove to be the difference-maker.

Advantage: Spurs


Jordan Farmar
Dopey

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Gregg Popovich
Dr. Strange

Coach

Phil has ten rings and has the Lakers on top of the West. Popovich's brain cells are slowly evaporating.

Advantage: Lakers


Phil Jackson
Sitting on his High Chair
images via yahoo.com

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Other Factors

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Intangibles

The late season surge is much later this season, but I believe it's happening. Like, right now.

Advantage: Spurs

Mojo

The mojo is dead.

Advantage: None

Winner:

Spurs win. Because I have a sparkling X amount of previews made with only 1 loss. ONE. And because Pop is finally treating games with some urgency, aside from showing sense in his rotations.

Keys To The Game

  • Defensive Rebounding - The defense is slowly getting better, but it will be for naught if we can't secure the boards. The Laker bigs are rebound hounds.
  • Kobe Strategy - Will the defense allow him to get 50 but limit everyone else? Or will it be the other way around? Ah, choices, choices. Of course, things are easier said than done.
  • The Big 4th - I'm sure Tim and Manu will be bringing it tonight, and I'm quite confident George Hill will continue his great play. But who will step up as the game-changing 4th option? RJ has the biggest expectations, but don't be surprised if Bonner or Mase step up. If the Big 4th doesn't show up, we're pretty much screwed.

Strength of Schedule

To say that the Spurs' stretch of three games (including this one, Cavs, @Celtics - no SEGABABAs, thank goodness) is brutal might be the biggest understatement of the season. The season is in the balance, and if we are to prove that we can compete for the title (Tony or no Tony), the proving ground starts here.

The Lakers, meanwhile, travel to OKC after this one, the 2nd of a taxing 5-game late season road trip.

Last Time They Met

Not good. No Kobe, no Bynum? No problem for LA. Lakers run away from the Spurs on that one, 101-89.

Some Other Reading

Lakers

Silver Screen and Roll - The SBNation blog for the Lakers. Good writing, with major participation.
Forum Blue and Gold - The best Lakers blog on the web, period.

Spurs

48 Minutes of Hell: The best TrueHoop team blog is now even better. A must read.
Project Spurs: Check out their regular podcasts. I think they love Manu as much as we do, if that's possible.

Where to Tune In

TV

This game will be aired nationwide in the US on ESPN. If you have cable or satellite, you'll have to look up your individual channel. And of course, there's always League Pass for the haves. For the have nots, read on.

Online

As always, NBA League Pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Most Spurs games will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area.

Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate. In fact, nobody can stop you from googling "atdhe". You can also shoot an email to poundingtherockmail@yahoo.com for more assistance.

NBA League Pass audio is still free this year, so check it out.

Radio

If you're in the San Antonio area and aren't near a TV, tune in to WOAI (1200 AM).

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