After the Los Angeles Lakers' painful beatdown at the hands of the NBA's newly glamorous Miami Heat, Kobe Bryant was rather critical of his team's recent performance. The former MVP laced a post-game interview with expletives and serious accusations of loafing by his teammates, and promised to unleash Hell at practice on Monday.
Thankfully for the viewing masses, whether the other Lakers took Kobe's message to heart will be put on full display as the two-time defending champs visit Tim Duncan and the four-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday (8:30 PM Eastern, NBA TV).
The Spurs lost to an Eastern power last week too, falling to the new-look Magic on Thursday. But that was San Antonio's first loss in 11 games, and the Spurs still maintain the NBA's best record at a pristine 26-4. San Antonio hasn't faced many elite teams this season -- the Spurs have lost to the Mavericks, and have yet to play the Celtics or Heat; as such, a visit by the Lakers serves as a sort of test for S.A.
The fireworks figure to spark between Kobe and Spurs talisman Manu Ginobili, both among the NBA's most aggressive drivers. Manu has flourished in his starting role this season, providing a prolific scoring punch for his two compadres Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Duncan has his hands full with Pau Gasol on the docket, while Parker will be depended upon to help shore up San Antonio's abnormally poor three-point defense, especially important considering that Lakers point guards Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown are among L.A.'s most likely shooters.
The Lakers won't face another elite opponent until Jan. 17 (Mavericks), while San Antonio faces another big test -- a rematch with Dallas -- on Thursday, followed by a trip to Boston next week. If L.A. gets this win, there is some respite on the table. For the Spurs, there is no coming harbor.