After vehemently saying all season that the “Old and Slow” Lakers would not earn themselves a playoff spot, low and behold, they find themselves seventh-seeded, and off to play the San Antonio Spurs, a team that just a month ago looked like a great bet to get to the NBA Finals, but who now look vulnerable to, of all teams, the Lakers, and who start the playoffs with a three-game losing streak. In fact, I think the Lakers will win the series.
Actually, the Lakers may have won that series last Sunday, when they saw first hand that the Spurs are in as bad a physical shape as they are, with Tony Parker a shell of himself, and with no Manu Ginobili. Also, the team recently gave up on Stephen Jackson,
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|releasing him last Friday. Not to say the Spurs are reaching for straws, but now they have signed Tracy McGrady, who last played in an NBA game just less than one year ago, and who has been missing in action for a very good reason.
But the key to Sunday’s game, and maybe to the playoff series, was summed up after the game by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: “‘We didn’t match their energy at all, …I just thought we sort of floated through the game.” He also said the following: Duncan was great, as usual. Timmy is a pro. … “He’s
really the only guy on the team that played like somebody who wanted to win a championship.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like what had been said all year about the Lakers, substituting the name Kobe Bryant for Tim Duncan? And that was about the team that I never thought would make the playoffs, and that never should have.
One of the big Lakers’ problems all year has been their awful bench. At this point in the season, with Parker playing half the time and no Ginobili, San Antonio is really dependent on their bench, and it has been as bad as the Lakars’. In Sunday’s game for instance, Matt Bonner was his usual three-point-shooting self, going two-for-two from long range, and three of four for the game, scoring eight points. But the rest of the bench was pretty bad. Gary Neal put in 12, but only shot five of 13, and the bench, other than Bonner, shot a grand 25%. If the Spurs need to rely on the likes of Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph, Neal and McGrady, then the Lakers are looking solid come Sunday afternoon.