April 11, 2012 Leave a comment
In a possible Western Conference Finals preview, the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers travel to San Antonio to take on the red-hot Spurs. This is the first of three meetings in the next two weeks between the rivals and will help dictate playoff positioning. Here are 4 pregame story lines for tonight’s game:
No Mamba Snakes in San Antonio
It’s true, there are no Black Mambas in San Antonio, Texas. In case Lakers fans haven’t heard, Kobe Bryant will miss his third straight game tonight against the Spurs with a painful shin injury. Alas, there will be no Willis Reed-like entrance for Kobe from the tunnel just before tip-off as Coach Mike Brown has already ruled Bryant out for the game. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, all-stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are all expected to play after sitting out a game Monday to rest. The Spurs are red-hot, winners of 11 straight before losing to Utah without their studs so the Lakers will need to come to play.
Fishing for an Identity without Kobe
Even with Kobe in the lineup, the Lakers have not looked like the same team lately. Last week they lost to an inferior Houston Rockets team at home, a game in which Bryant played but Bynum got ejected in. The Lakers followed that up with a blowout loss in Phoenix and a win in New Orleans in which they needed a 15-2 run in the 4th quarter just to pull out a 2-point victory. Without Kobe in the lineup and no Derek Fisher to save them in 0.4 seconds, the Lakers will need to find team chemistry fast or Lakers fans can expect another Phoenix-like blowout.
Big Men + Big Bench = Big Win
If the Lakers have any chance of beating the Spurs, their all-star big men will have to dominate the older, slower Tim Duncan inside. Pau Gasol has played well in Kobe’s absence and will have to stay aggressive, while enigmatic Andrew Bynum needs to just play defense, rebound and shut his mouth. The Lakers will also need more than single digit points from their bench tonight to match up with arguably the best bench in the NBA this season. Solid efforts from Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy and particularly Steve Blake will be essential tonight for a Lakers victory.
Birthday Sessions for Ramon
Other than the Lakers’ twin towers and bench output, the final x-factor tonight will be birthday boy Ramon Sessions. On his 26th birthday, Sessions will have his hands full with legit MVP candidate Tony Parker. While Parker has the rings and the experience, Sessions at this age is faster and hopefully can drop 26 points on his 26th birthday while making sure the Lakers control tempo.
Lakers fans, do the Lakers have a shot tonight without the Black Mamba? What will the final score of the game be?
Hunter23 contributed to this article.