Showtime: 7:30 p.m. PT
Plot: The Los Angeles Lakers are back at it in Game 3 of 82. Their back-to-back to open the season featured an extremely high peak and a womp-womp valley. A day of rest, a return to Staples Center and a match-up with the Tim Duncan-less San Antonio Spurs is on the agenda Friday night.
Duncan will sit out tonight because of a chest contusion, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. On the Lakers side, Steve Nash will play after sitting out the second half of the back-to-back, per Lakers reporter Mike Trudell.
After a wild start to the season it's time for the team to settle in for the long haul that awaits them over the next six months or so. The starting lineup struggled to open the game Wednesday night in Oracle Arena and the team was unable to stop the bleeding. Klay Thompson kept plucking away at the wound as he slithered around the court.
Even without Duncan the Spurs are going to be a difficult opponent for the Lakers. Danny Green is a sharpshooter from deep and Gregg Popovich is going to have him in motion throughout the night. Kawhi Leonard is another tough wing defender that is going to stymie the Lakers' dribble penetration. Tiago Splitter is mobile enough to switch on pick-and-roll drives and will be an obstacle for Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar to finish around.
Then there's Tony Parker, one of the NBA's primo point guards. This is the third straight "oh boy" ball-handler for the Lakers' to corral with Chris Paul and Stephen Curry in the rear-view. The Spurs are going to attack the Lakers' trio of points and frontcourt with a variety of pick-and-rolls. Yes, it helps that Duncan is out, but Splitter is very good at finishing as the roll man (last seasonhe averaged 1.25 points per possession here, good for 15th in the league, per Synergy Sports Technology).
The Spurs will start Boris Diaw and likely play Matt Bonner behind him at power forward which can make weak side help defense a little tricky. Both players can stretch the floor out to the three-point line, clearing the restricted area for Splitter. This creates a ton of ground for the Lakers' bigs to cover as help defenders and can be a nightmare if the Spurs' kick back out to the perimeter.
The flip side to this is the Lakers size with Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman should create issues for San Antonio. Splitter is a good all-around defender but can't play 48 minutes (this is Pop' we're talking about, not Thibs'). The Lakers should take advantage of the lack of depth in the Spurs' frontcourt.
The Spurs will likely double down in the psot and hedge into the paint with their perimeter defenders if Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman catch fire, putting a great deal of responsibility on the rest of the team to shift along the perimeter and serve as outlet shooters.
The last time these team's faced off circumstances were quite different. The Lakers managed to lock in the West's seventh seed in the NBA Playoffs and were heading into their first series in what felt like forever without Kobe Bryant. The Dwight Howard-anchored Lakers would be swept, spelling out the end of the end of Howard's time with the franchise as he passed by Kobe after being ejected in his final game.
The Spurs went on to a seven-game series against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and remain largely unchanged this year. The Lakers went on to... well... whatever they are now. We're still discovering the team in this new season that still has that new car smell going on.
On this soundtrack
George Strait - All my Ex's live in Texas