Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

The Spurs continue their opening season tour of teams they swept last spring when they visit Staples Center to take on the Lakers. Tim Duncan will travel with the team, but he's unlikely to play after taking an elbow to the chest Wednesday night.

San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
November 1, 2013, 9:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: ESPN - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The San Antonio Spurs travel for the first time in the regular season today as the group prepares to take on a depleted Lakers franchise that is in shambles compared to where it was just a few short years ago. Los Angeles enters the game at 1-1 after its bench took the season-opener from the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Lakers fell back to earth in a loss to Golden State on Wednesday.

This isn't your older brother's Lakers. Heck, this isn't even your Lakers. Kobe Bryant is out for the foreseeable future, Steve Nash played sparingly against the Clippers before sitting out against the Warriors in a planned early season break on a back-to-back. There is no Shaq, no Kobe, no anyone, really. Just Pau Gasol, a shell of Steve Nash and then a bunch of guys.

Here is the rub, however: Mike D'Antoni is to trash rosters what Phil Jackson was to rosters filled with stars. As ridiculous as this may sound, his system is probably better suited for this roster than the one he had last year that included the best perimeter player since Michael Jordan and the best center in a league devoid of true centers.

Against the Clippers, the Lakers used a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill for the entire fourth quarter. That group outscored the Clippers 41-24 in the fourth quarter while hitting on 15-of-23 from the field. It was D'Antoni ball at it's finest: floor spacing, high pick-and-rolls and a lot of quick shots from the perimeter. D'Antoni is the king of the no center, fire-at-will offense, and without Dwight Howard in the paint to clog up all of the action; the Lakers may be a better offense this season than last.

The problem? He still can't coach defense. The Lakers guard the perimeter on defense like the French government pays its expenses. In the loss to Golden State, the Warriors scored 125 points on 53.5 percent shooting from the floor. Out of those 125 points only 40 were scored in the paint.

While it's likely Tim Duncan will not be available for this game after his chest met Tony Allen's elbow, this game sets up well for a San Antonio team that started the season off with an 11-of-20 effort from behind the arc with eight different players attempting at least one three-point basket.

Gasol is still a force in this league. He is clever around the basket as a scorer and a passer. He's also an adequate rebounder and defender, even though he'll carry his "soft" tag all the way to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Outside of that, though, this team will do little to strike fear in the hearts of the best teams in the Western Division, especially if Nash can't give over 30 minutes a game or play in two-straight games.

It is odd for a franchise like the Lakers to rebuild, but that is exactly what is happening. Xavier Henry may be the most impactful player on the roster. Think about that one for a second. Henry scored 22 off of the bench against the Clippers and backed that effort up with 14 points against the Warriors. He is a weapon for Los Angeles and someone that the Spurs defense will have to account for.

Just like with the Grizzlies to start the season, San Antonio made quick work of the Lakers in last year's postseason. There is a new cast of characters for the Spurs to deal with, but I'll take Popovich over D'Antoni any day of the week and that should play out on Friday night. The Spurs have options and options to those options. The Lakers are essentially an over-paid rec team that only has a shot if they can suck an opponent into their style of play.

The Clippers fell for that, but the Spurs won't. San Antonio has far too many weapons on the outside for Los Angeles to defend. And with or without Duncan, that is all the Spurs will need.

Matchup to watch: San Antonio will dominate on the perimeter, so watch how Tiago Splitter handles being the man in the middle if Duncan's injury is as serious as some are making it seem. Splitter will be in charge of defending Gasol early, and he'll have to keep a pesky Jordan Hill off of the offensive glass when the Lakers move to a small lineup.

Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Boris Diaw
C: Tiago Splitter


Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Marco Belinelli
Patty Mills


Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Lineups

Starters
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Steve Blake
SF: Nick Young
PF: Shawne Williams
C: Pau Gasol

Key Bench Players
Xavier Henry
Jordan Hill
Jodie Meeks

Head Coach
Mike D'Antoni

The Lakers perspective can be found here: Silver Screen and Roll

Game Prediction: Spurs by 12, with or without Timmy.

As always, Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game 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.

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