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Lakers-Spurs matchup, Five things to watch

April 17, 2012|By Mark Medina

Some things to watch when the Lakers (39-22) host the San Antonio Spurs (43-16) Tuesday at Staples Center.

1. Look for the Spurs to approach their rematch differently. The Lakers are anticipating that San Antonio will punch back hard  after losing in double-digits to the purple & gold without Kobe Bryant. They were given an easy victory Monday against Golden State, who appeared trying to tank to pick up some lottery balls. Although the Spurs aren't killing themselves over securing the West's No. 1 seed, they likely see the value in not giving the Lakers too much confidence they can handle them in a playoff series.

That's why it's unrealistic to assume the same things won't happen in last week's game. Andrew Bynum won't grab 30 rebounds. The Lakers will have to work for converting on hustle plays. The Spurs Big Three in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will fare better than shooting a combined 12-of-34.

2. How will Bynum play through his upper respiratory infection? Health concerns mostly center on Bryant, who will miss his sixth consecutive game because of a sore left shin. But it also applies to Bynum, who admitted he had trouble breathing in the Lakers' 112-108 overtime victory Sunday over the Dallas Mavericks. Bynum proved he has the will to play through it. But it remains to be seen how serious it is.

Regardless, Bynum has taken the right approach in remaining effective during Bryant's absence despite persisting double teams. Though Bynum has shot only 41.1% in the past five games, he's made up for that by averaging 16.6 rebounds and showing stronger effort on the boards.

3. The Lakers should experience success on offense. As dangerous as Parker usually shows on running pick-and-rolls, he's hardly reliable in actually defending it. The Spurs may have capable bodies defending the post in Duncan, Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair. But they don't have much discipline on defense. Although Ramon Sessions' pick-and-rolls only resulted in a collective six-of-15, his offensive organization proved a large part in setting up the Lakers on post-ups (nine of 18) and spot-up shots (12-of-24). The Lakers simply need to rinse, lather and repeat. The Spurs don't have personnel to stop it.

4. The Lakers need to limit the Spurs' three-point shooting.  Meanwhile, the Lakers haven't allowed teams to crack the 100-point barrier in four of the past five games. The Lakers likely won't face issues covering the post. But they've shown a lack of discipline in closing out on the perimeter. In the past five games, the Lakers have allowed teams to average a 50% clip from three-point range. It didn't haunt them last week when San Antonio shot 13-of-24 from downtown. But it's hardly worth taking the risk again.

5. How will the bench build off their recent success? Don't compare the points between the Spurs and Lakers bench. Considering Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich plays a 10-man rotation, it's likely San Antonio will beat the Lakers by a long shot. Instead, it's more important what influence the Lakers' reserves have when they're actually out on the floor. Within the past week, there's been some progress. Matt Barnes has maintained his hustle plays, while shooting with good accuracy. Steve Blake looks more confident running the offense and taking open shots. Josh McRoberts has provided energy. Considering the Spurs' depth, the Lakers can't afford for those contributions to suddenly disappear.

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