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Lakers vs. Spurs Preview: Kobe Bryant gets first of final four matchups with rival Duncan and Spurs

The generation's two biggest stars tangle in San Antonio.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The decade's top Western Conference powers will once again meet. The Los Angeles Lakers head to San Antonio to take on an 18-5 Spurs team trying to keep pace with the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers are trending in the other direction at 3-19 and look mismanaged from the floor to the front office.

Kobe Bryant will be playing the first of his final four games against the Spurs and longtime rival Tim Duncan. Bryant and Duncan faced off in the playoffs every year from 1999 thru 2004, with Kobe holding a 3-2 series edge. The two didn't meet in the postseason again until the 2008 Western Conference Finals where the Lakers beat the Spurs 4-1. San Antonio swept LA in 2012, but Bryant was out following his Achilles injury.

Kobe is having the worst season of his career, shooting 31 percent from the field and 22 percent from three. He continues to let it fly, averaging 17.5 shots per game. Duncan, on the other hand, continues to be a model of consistency averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field.

The Spurs are relying heavily on two-way star Kawhi Leonard and newcomer LaMarcus Aldridge this year. Leonard is averaging 21 points per game and Aldridge is putting in 15.4. San Antonio averages 25 assists per game as a team, good for third in the league.

The Lakers continue to lean on Jordan Clarkson, who may not be available for the game. Clarkson is building on his impressive rookie season with 15.2 points per game and a .470 shooting percentage. Fellow second-year player Julius Randle is also having a good season with 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, leading all rookies and sophomores on the boards. Rookie D'Angelo Russell has been inconsistent, but it is not entirely his fault. Russell is 11.5 points per game and is coming off a career night against the timbewrolves.

San Antonio blew out Philadelphia despite Leonard, Duncan and Ginobili sitting out. With Bryant's farewell tour in full swing, expect the Spurs to play at full strength. This one could get ugly.

Time: 6:30 p.m. PT


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