Five quick questions (and answers)
1. Does size matter? It will have to for the Lakers to be able to pull off the upset. Howard and Pau Gasol must go to work on the inside.
| Starting Lineups |
Spurs Position Lakers
Tony Parker G Steve Blake
Gary Neal G Jodie Meeks
Tim Duncan C Dwight Howard
Tiago Splitter F Pau Gasol
Danny Green F Metta World Peace
2. Is the key to the Spurs Duncan or Parker? While the soon-to-be-37-year-old Duncan has turned back the clock to have a remarkable season, Parker is the key to making the offense go and stop penetration on defense.
3. Can Manu still be Manu? Put it this way: He'll try, because Ginobili only knows one way to play. But it's going to be a real test to keep him upright and in the lineup through June.
4. Whither Steve Nash? Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni expects his veteran point guard back in the lineup for the opener, which might only present a bigger problem if Parker drives by him constantly.
5. When do the Lakers miss Kobe the most? From the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning to the minute they climb back into bed at night. When the Spurs have the ball ...
They want to get the ball off the defensive glass and into Parker's hands so that he can make a sprint straight for the basket or find one of his many capable perimeter shooters for the best available shot. Coach Gregg Popovich wants quick decisions and the ball moving. When the quick shot isn't there, they can go back inside to Duncan, who is playing like he's turned the clock back a decade. The Spurs were in the top five for offensive efficiency all season until injuries hit late.
The top challenge for the Lakers is to apply pressure that gets the ball out of Parker's hands or funnel him into the paint where Howard can guard the rim. When the Lakers have the ball ...
Without Bryant, but with Nash back in the lineup, the Lakers can fill themselves up on a steady diet of pick and rolls where possible. But based on the success they had in the two big wins to close out the regular season, it is also practical and effective to put the ball into Pau Gasol's hands and let the big man go to work for himself or read and make dishes. It's taken them all season to get on the same page, but a Howard-Gasol offensive tandem can work in sync.
The Spurs have been running into Nash in the playoffs for years wearing different uniforms and they know they'd much rather give him the openings in their defense to try to score rather than let him get his teammates going. In the clutch
When it ain't broke, don't fix it. Parker to Duncan has been working for years.
Howard's poor free-throw shooting means he can't finish, but he can be just as much a game-changer at the defensive end.
Second year forward Kawhi Leonard is a bubbling pot that could boil over onto the prime time scene as a scorer and defender.
Isn't Metta World Peace the definition of a wild card? Either he or Antawn Jamison must step up and have an impact. Prediction
This is the first-round series that everyone will be watching to see if the Spurs wobble. If Ginobili and Parker aren't both back at top form, they're vulnerable, but the Spurs still have enough to survive in six. READ MORE AT NBA.COM