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Spurs @ Lakers: The Game Thread, Part 1

The last game against the Lakers was nothing short of epic in PtR history, as we cut through four different game threads like Mack the Knife on hot butter. The ungodly game time probably won't let that happen again, but we'll never know - this is the Lakers, after all.

Also, be sure to get the opposing point of view over at Silver Screen and Roll. If you're not a troll, join us after the jump.

Likely Starters

San Antonio Spurs

Los Angeles Lakers
Home: 33-5
George Hill PG Derek Fisher
Manu Ginobili SG Kobe Bryant
Richard Jefferson SF Ron Artest
Tim Duncan PF Lamar Odom
Antonio McDyess C Pau Gasol
DeJuan Blair
Keith Bogans
Jordan Farmar
Shannon Brown


Bennett Salvatore
Bennie Adams
Tony Brothers

Key Matchup

Shooting Guard: A battle between two of the best SGs in the game - one who's recently returned to dangerous form after being sidelined by injury for most of last season, and the other, despite his team on top of a tough conference, still has to ward off reports about an LA ship in disarray. Who will be able to will his team to victory? It's Manu versus Kobe --- on A-Bee-Cee!

Pounding the Silver Screen

An e-mail exchange between our own jollyrogerwilco and Silver Screen and Roll's Gil Meriken. It's our second preview, I guess. Enjoy:

Dale [after some not-for-the-general-public comments]: But we know that nothing's guaranteed what with seeds 2 through 8 sandwiched into a 4 game spread. So, what do you think if our teams end up missing each other in the first? Shall we do a test run the last couple days of the season as things sort themselves out? Would you rather save it and keep it fresh for when/if the series actually happens?

I'm up for any of it. I'm thinking that the only thing better than squaring off immediately, would be meeting in the WCF for an epic series after you and I have been lobbing hay-makers at each other through the first two rounds. It would feel like destiny at that point. All right, that's it for the evening.

Gil: I think we can start now and just talk about how the two teams looked tonight. The Lakers were their maddeningly inconsistent selves tonight, beating the Utah Jazz in Staples and dominating them in the first quarter, something they haven't done in many many games. For a while there, every game the Lakers were giving up 25 plus points in the first quarter. Lamar Odom even decided to turn up. LO is like a flaky girl who stands you up so many times that you tell yourself it's not worth it, but then she shows up just enough to hang out and keep you reeled in. Um, enough about my personal history.

How about them Spurs? Manu beasted it tonight with 43 points in 35 minutes of play. A lot of your buddies were writing off their own team a few weeks ago. They even though scoffed when I said that the Lakers were happy to have finally beaten a "worthy opponent" in their last meeting. But with Tony Parker-less wins against Cleveland and Orlando, things are back on the up trend (I'm not including Boston, because everybody is beating up on Boston these days). How are you feeling about your team today?

Dale: Only in LA can a team that's 7-3 for their last 10 games be called maddeningly inconsistent. Ok, I know what you mean, but still, the only teams in the west better in the L10 column are PHX and Portland. SA is 6-4 and is getting some buzz, but not for racking up the win totals -- we'll get to them in a bit.

The Lakers just wiped the Staples floor with Utah. Your team took the bookends (the first and fourth quarters) by 23 points combined. You say Odom turned up. I'd say that's an understatement. Twenty-six points on only 14 shots. That's crazy. Especially when you consider he didn't get his at the line or beyond the arc. He only took one free throw and only made three 3-pointers. How'd he get to 26? He just declined to miss the shots he took. Well, allright, he did miss three. But 11 for 14 is pretty stinking efficient. I know I wouldn't mind shooting 78.5% from the field; even if it's only for one game.

I guess it could be frustrating seeing Lamar play like that and then disappear for entire games/weeks at a time (after all, Jefferson does that for us, it's just that his good games aren't quite as nice as Odom's recent gem) but as a potential playoff opponent, it's guys like him that make LA so scary to contemplate. He was +30 against the Jazz. C'mon, that's just not right.

As to the Spurs, the wins over the three division leaders in the Eastern Conference (see, I didn't mention Beantown by name either) could not have come at a more opportune time for me. After the last SA v LA game, I was about as low as I'd been on the Spurs all season long. I realized that I was looking at the Spurs glass as half full, which doesn't seem so bad except that I usually see it no lower than three quarters full, even if most of the country is thinking it's half empty at best.

So, to see the team not just stay with, but run away from BOS and ORL, and beat CLE (even though it looked like SA was trying to give it away in the fourth) it's really renewed my hope that had been looking for something solid to stand on for -- well for the entire season. And it's not just that the team seems to be clicking now, it's that Manu's playing so well.

One of the regulars at PtR (CMoney) while talking about Ginobili, and how he's been making RJ better, called him Manu 2.0. And I think that's a really good way to describe how long it's been since the Spurs have had their clutch guy healthy and comfortable for a stretch of games.

In the recap of the Magic game, LatinD (PtR's resident Argentine) did a compare/contrast of three of Manu's incarnations across the years. And he said this about the current version, "2010 Manu slashes, executes in the clutch, makes 43 points in 35 minutes - but he also passes, distributes, runs the team, and finds time to perform at least one key defensive play per game."

As much as he's been winning games, racking up points and making highlight reel plays with his scoring, Manu's had block of the night twice in the last couple of months. His stuff of Kevin Durant's fast break bucket, and the more recent KG denial, which is where you and I made our acquaintence.

Manu's really been bringing it all (which I don't need to tell you seeing as he's on your fantasy team) since Parker broke his hand. And with Duncan looking like he's ready for the playoffs [editing note: strikethrough, not italics] for more rest in between games, the Spurs really are looking like Manu's team. After all, the Spurs couldn't even beat NJ when Manu sat out, and the Nets had only won 9 games up to that point.

Which brings us to Sunday's game. How do you see it going? The PtR faithful are fairly optimistic, given the way SA has played the top contenders they've faced recently, but there's also the afternoon/nationally-televised-game jinx which seems to strike the Spurs at the most inconvenient times. Ugh. I don't even want to think about that, much less talk about it. So, it's back to you. What does Sunday and the rest of the regular season hold for LA?

Gil: The result of Sunday's game is not going to mean much to me. If they win, great, everyone will say the Lakers have a switch they can turn on at will. If they lose, Lakers fans will just say that the Lakers didn't put in the effort. I love that any loss is because the Lakers didn't try, how convenient.

It's just so hard to determine the significance of any one regular season game. It's one of those things fans love to debate on places like SBNation, and no one can prove anything, except in hindsight. I remember when the Lakers lost to Charlotte last year, and some naysayer Laker fans were grumbling, "Championship-quality teams don't lose games like that". Well, guess what, a championship-quality team did lose that game. But you can't win that argument in real time. Because what you're really arguing is whether that team is going to win the championship. I'm fond of the well-used story about the two guys in the woods who see a bear, and one guy stops to put his shoes on before running from the bloodthirsty bear. The shoeless guy says "Shoes aren't going to help you outrun the bear". And shoe guy says "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you" (this story is also told with a lion instead of a bear. People are scared of both). In the same way, winning a title is relative. Fans demand a certain level of excellence from their team, and get cranky when that level is not met, but in reality, you just have to be better than each team you face in the playoffs, you don't have to be perfect, or even dominating.

Beat each team you face in the playoffs in a best-of-seven series, that's all you need to do - nothing more, nothing less.

Key to the Game

Defensive Rebounding: Boxing out is such a simple concept, and yet the Spurs sometimes seem unable to grasp it. The Spurs can't afford not to box out this Laker team, because they will send everyone to the offensive glass. If they regularly get their own rebounds, we will get blown right out of our own building. If we can get to the boards first, we can [in theory, at least] punish them on the break.

Final Note

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