The San Antonio Spurs take their two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers into Staples Center and face off against an even more depleted Lakers squad Friday night. The remaining player pool for the Lakers continues to dwindle, as Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake are all expected to miss Game 3.
The Lakers have struggled to deal with San Antonio on both ends of the floor and may now start a backcourt featuring NBA D-League MVP Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris. Can the big man duo of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard squeak out a win in Game 3 for the Lakers, or will the Spurs continue their march into the Western Conference semifinals?
Will Tony Parker take advantage of an inexperience back court?
Parker has been dealing with health issues of his own but looked like he was on the right track in Game 2 after dropping 28 points and seven assists on the Lakers. Parker is a catalyst for the Spurs' offense, using his off-ball movement and dribble penetration to pick apart Los Angeles. With the Lakers' being forced to play the end of their bench in Morris, Chris Duhon, and Goudelock, Parker should be able to get comfortable offensively and continue finding his rhythm.
How far can Howard push the Lakers?
With limited options on offense, the Lakers will need Howard to find ways to score in the post. The Spurs have been aggressive in sending extra defenders at Howard to throw off his rhythm and cause turnovers, and now have even less reason to respect the Lakers from the perimeter. Howard is two losses away from ending his first and perhaps only season with Lakers. Can he carry the team to a single playoff victory despite the injury woes, or will the Spurs key in on the big man through Game 3?
Will anyone else step up for Los Angeles?
The Lakers lack offensive weapons as they dig to the bottom of their roster. Will there be an unexpected role player to step up and provide positive play for the Lakers in their first home game of the 2013 playoffs? The Lakers don't have many options left, which opens up an opportunities for players to step up through the remainder of the postseason.
Game time: 10:30 p.m. ET
National TV: ESPN
Local TV: C+ D, TWSN
Odds: Spurs favored +6 via Oddsshark.com