The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs already played one (really ugly) game earlier this week, but Friday night's matchup is expected to be much different. Not because the game will be held in Texas instead of California, but because Kobe Bryant is expected to return from his injury absence.
It would seem that neither team has much to play for considering they both locked up postseason berths long ago, but that isn't exactly the case. The Spurs will be working to hold off the Oklahoma City Thunder for the West's top seed whereas the Lakers are trying to make sure the interstadium rival Clippers don't jump them for the lead in the Pacific Division.
Our friends over at Pounding The Rock believe that depth might be key -- or if it's ever going to be the "key" for the Spurs, it better be against a team like the Lakers.
4. If the Spurs depth matters, it had better matter against a team like the Lakers. The Lakers, with or without Bryant, having lost Odom, having replaced Jackson, having jettisoned Fisher, are still a damn fine team. That first five is as tough as there is, especially if they can dictate a slower pace and feed their big men, who are both awesome, and most especially if they have a healthy Kobe Bryant. The verdict is out on whether Ramon Sessions improves them, as their defense seems to have slipped a bit since the trade deadline, but logic would lead us to say that that trade made them younger and more offensively potent. Now, when you get to the Lakers bench, it's a different story. If the Spurs reserves are the class of the league, and I believe they are, they must expose the Lakers' depth issues. The Spurs' role players stepped up and performed on Tuesday night in LA, and will need to outplay guys like Steve Blake and Matt Barnes again tonight. Ole.
Outplaying Steve Blake and Matt Barnes doesn't seem like it should be all that difficult, but stranger things have happened.