Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers – Who’s playing tonight?

by

San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers 9:30 CST April 12, 2011

Not too long ago, the Spurs were coping with a six game losing streak while the Lakers were tearing through the NBA. Now it is the Lakers who are mired in a 5 game losing streak, while the Spurs have reeled off 4 straight wins. In fact, the argument could be made that the Lakers’ losing streak is more severe. In the Spurs 6 game skid, several starters missed time (most notably Duncan) and the losses were close contests against tough opponents. Although the Lakers’ losses have generally been close, they blew a couple easy matchups and their starters played significant minutes throughout. Of course, history has shown that streaks can reverse in an instant. All that matters is how the teams are playing once the playoffs begin.

I can think of 5 potentially significant implications of tonight’s game:
The Lakers’ and Spurs’ confidence
The Spurs’ playoff road (the Lakers’ seeding)
Home Court against the Bulls
Injuries and rest
Game 1 of the 1st round

The Lakers’ and Spurs’ confidence

I can’t say I feel too strongly about this factor. Do the Spurs want the Lakers’ less or more confident? I suspect the latter, but I don’t have a ton of support for my opinion. I suspect that, in the short term, overconfidence can lead to players welcoming lower percentage options, whereas lack of confidence becomes a larger issue in the long run (or when encountering a new situation, especially when the opinions of others are important). However, I am not certain of this conclusion and it is even more difficult to assess the level of impact. Even if we know what level of confidence is preferred, would resting the starters help instill confidence because the Lakers are more likely to have success? Or would it limit any potential confidence the Lakers could gain since they didn’t have to face Duncan, Ginobili, etc.?

Similarly, if the Spurs don’t “get some kinks out” in the this game, perhaps they will be more focused in the playoffs. Or will they be too hesitant to perform their optimal roles? It’s tough to tell…

The playoff road- Lakers’ seeding

The Lakers are probably the Spurs’ toughest potential playoff opponent in the West. If the Lakers lose both remaining games, there is chance they could slip as low as the 4th seed. If they win both, they will clinch the 2nd seed. If the Lakers finish with the 4th seed, the chances they meet face the Spurs will increase since it would only require one series win for each. The Lakers finishing with the 3rd seed seems ideal for the Spurs. In this scenario, the Lakers would probably play without home court advantage in round 2, so there is a better chance they will be eliminated by the time they play the Spurs. Additionally, there would presumably be a better chance the Spurs could find themselves matched against the Nuggets in round 2.

Keep in mind that I didn’t work out all the factors involved, so there could be some I overlooked with regards to the importance of seeding in the West.

Also, I don’t mean to suggest the Spurs can’t beat the Lakers, but avoiding them in the playoffs definitely improves the chances that San Antonio represents the Western conference in the finals. The Lakers would also benefit from trying to avoid the Spurs.

Injuries and rest

Injuries are always a concern at this point. If Coach Pop thinks rest will help players throughout the playoff stretch or they are banged up in any way, I am sure he will opt to sit them; and I can’t blame him for doing so. In this case, all my other points are largely meaningless.

Sealing Home Court against the Bulls

A number of things need to happen before overall home court advantage means anything. The Spurs and Bulls both need to win their respective conferences (let’s say that is 10% likely). Additionally, that series must reach a 7th game (1 in 4). Even if the Spurs lose against the Lakers, they still have a good chance to finish ahead of Chicago. Here is how the Spurs can clinch home court throughout the entire playoffs:

The Spurs WIN BOTH games or
the Spurs win ONE game AND the Bulls WIN BOTH games AND the Spurs win the resulting random drawing or
the Spurs win ONE game AND the Bulls win ONE game or
the Spurs LOSE BOTH games AND the Bulls win ONE game and the Spurs win the resulting random drawing or
the Bulls LOSE BOTH games.

Even if the home court does come into play, it only matters for 1 game and the home team is far from a guaranteed winner. That said, home court is more tangible than many other the other factors involved and should at least be considered. I estimate that there is approximately a 1 in 200 chance that home court is the difference between the Spurs winning the championship or finishing second.

Game 1 1st round

Studies have indicated that 2 days rest is the sweet spot for best performance.

Spurs upcoming schedule:
Tue, Apr 12, 2011 @ Los Angeles Lakers
Wed, Apr 13, 2011 @ Phoenix Suns
Playoffs begin Saturday April 16

Although I would be surprised if the Spurs lost in the first round. The first round in the West is much tougher than the East and should not be taken lightly.

In summary, I see more reasons to rest the starters against the Lakers than against the Suns. This strategy appears likely that it will help the Spurs chances in the first round. Additionally, there will be a lesser chance of needless injury playing the Suns since the Spurs will have a better idea of what is needed for HCA.

Hopefully, the Spurs have put in some good practice and conditioning by now. As is normal, I anticipate an increase in minutes for Parker, Duncan and Ginobili come playoff time.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Lakers: 5.94 (4th)
San Antonio: 6.09 (3rd)

Player summary statistics from basketball-reference.com and basketballvalue.com:

Los Angeles Lakers Player Ratings 4-11

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Pau Gasol8036.921.91231030.2323.55
Kobe Bryant8033.8351111050.1773.46
Lamar Odom803219.61181030.1834.44
Ron Artest8029.215.41051050.092.71
Andrew Bynum5328.117.61211000.211.89
Derek Fisher8027.812.81051070.076-1.57
Steve Blake792011.31021080.055-1.79
Matt Barnes5319.216.61121030.1420.83
Shannon Brown8019.1221051060.095-5.71



San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 4-11

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Tony Parker7732.525.51141080.16-0.39
Manu Ginobili7930.7261161050.1976.16
Richard Jefferson7930.515.31171080.1170.26
Tim Duncan7528.322.81111000.1735.62
George Hill7428.318.11161080.138-1.64
Matt Bonner6421.813.31241070.1433.61
DeJuan Blair7921.420.11051000.129-1.91
Gary Neal7820.820.61101090.099-2.75
Antonio McDyess721914.91051030.1032.36
Tiago Splitter5812.217.71131030.153N/A
James Anderson2510.6161071100.072N/A
Steve Novak217.916.31401090.205N/A
Chris Quinn406.816.8981100.031N/A


Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Los Angeles Lakers Player Trends 4-11

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Ron Artest15.418.53.1
Kobe Bryant30.130.60.5
Pau Gasol32.932.8-0.1
Andrew Bynum31.931.4-0.5
Steve Blake12.612.1-0.5
Lamar Odom29.227.1-2.1
Derek Fisher139.3-3.7
Matt Barnes23.218.9-4.3
Shannon Brown18.16.2-11.9



San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 4-11

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Tim Duncan33.137.64.5
Tiago Splitter24.128.24.1
Gary Neal18.821.42.6
George Hill21.522.91.4
Richard Jefferson17.718.60.9
Antonio McDyess2322.2-0.8
Tony Parker27.126.2-0.9
Matt Bonner19.618.6-1
Manu Ginobili28.324.9-3.4
James Anderson1410.5-3.5
DeJuan Blair27.622.7-4.9
Steve Novak24.312.4-11.9


Lineup data
Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Lakers:
Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Gasol +253 in 905 minutes (+14.8 per 100 possessions)
Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol +55 in 208 minutes (+12.8 per 100)
Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Bynum +60 in 144 minutes (+19.5 per 100)

Spurs:
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 687 minutes (+10.2 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +62 in 227 minutes (+14.7 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +63 in 108 minutes (+33.0 per 100)
Parker, Hill, Ginobili, Bonner, Duncan +43 in 63 minutes (+34.3 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, Splitter +41 in 51 minutes (+39.3 per 100)

The Pick

Lakers

I think the Lakers will be more motivated to play this one. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spurs rest several starters.

  • Timmay

    Nice article, just do not agree with one point. You talked about home court advantage in the finals only regarding game 7. But I think the real advantage is starting two games at home. You win these two, history will say the chance is high you win the series as well (without a game 7).

    Tonight I also expect much rest for the starters.
    Still, free Tiago and give L.A. some hard times!

  • idahospur

    Is it just me but does the league rescind too many technical fouls. Why have these rules for game suspensions when everyone gets out of them?

    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • http://www.theorangerock@blogspot.com therealkman

    We talk about the Spurs resting their starters, what about LA giving some much needed rest to Kobe and their bigs? If the Lakers are in sleepwalking mode until the playoffs start, then they should have plenty of confidence that they will win their first two rounds even if it means playing Dallas on the road. So, might we see both teams rest their starters or aleast play them limited minutes?

  • dingo

    A positive is the Bulls game (8pm ET) is before the Spurs game tonight (1030pm ET), so they will know the result.

    I’m hoping the Knicks can beat the Bulls, the Spurs rest v Lakers (and Lakers win so they don’t slip to #4) and then Spurs beat the Suns the next night to wrap up HCA for the entire playoffs.

    Go Spurs!

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    I want the Spurs to beat the Lakers tonight. That last ass whipping still has to be in the minds of the players…..and I know it is in the minds of fans, myself included.

    I expect the Big 3 to get some minutes but the bench is going to have to win it for the Spurs.

    My only concern is that the Spurs win and Dallas is most assuredly going to kick the shit out of NOLA tomorrow, which should place them in the 8th spot, which is great but that means more than likely, Dallas will be 2nd and OKC will be 3rd, pushing the Lakers to the 4th seed.

    I would much rather 2 teams kick the snot out of the Lakers and then the Spurs get to take them on in the WCF…..so there are still a ton of subplots over the next 2 days that will shake out.

    Any way it goes, it should be exciting.

  • DBAGuy

    I really think who plays will depend a lot on the Bull/Knicks game that happens to be before the Spurs/Lakers game. If the Bulls lose, then we can rest the whole bunch. Heck, are we allowed to play only 4 players :).

    Lets hope Bulls lose the game, Knicks should be motivated to win tonight, being their final game at home and tomorrow they play against the Celtics in Boston.

  • Luke

    Guys but wouldn’t it be better playing Lakers in the 2nd round than in the WCF? Let’s say they play tough 1st r series (6/7 gms) as a 4th seed and we sweep Hornets. Just a food for thought…

  • pastrypride

    I think we should go for the win here. First, beating the Lakers is more important, since we want to keep them in the 3rd seed. If they beat us tonight then beat the Kings, they’ll be tied with Dallas and would take the #2 seed because they own the tie-breaker. For the Lakers to drop to the fourth seed, Dallas and OKC would have to hop over them, which is pretty unlikely given the Lakers are basically ahead of both as it stands (because of the tie-breaker with Dallas) and their final game against the Kings is very winnable.

    Then add on to that home court vs. the Bulls.

    And finally, I don’t see how resting the starters four games before game one of the playoffs is at all important, especially given the three days between our final game of the season and the first game of the playoffs. As you point out, 3 days is plenty.

  • Bentley

    Even if we beat LA tonight, they could still clinch the 3 seed with a win over Sacramento, because they have the tiebreaker over OKC. If LA loses tonight and wins tomorrow, they still have the same number of losses and LA won the head to head meetings this season. The only way LA slips to #4 is if they lose tonight AND tomorrow

  • betsyduncan

    I, too, would like to see us take a bite out of the faltering Fakers’ collective confidence-levels, and also make up for that earlier loss (as Alix said). But keeping our starters in the game until the ‘bitter end’, I’m not so sure.
    I also think that beating the Sunflowers tomorrow night is more important than tonight’s tilt.
    I trust Pop to know how to approach these final two games, in any event.

  • ITGuy

    From article:
    “Also, I don’t mean to suggest the Spurs can’t beat the Lakers, but avoiding them in the playoffs definitely improves the chances that San Antonio represents the Western conference in the finals. The Lakers would also benefit from trying to avoid the Spurs.”

    So, Spurs fans, do you think the Spurs benefit more from not playing the lakers until the WCF or the other way around?

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Hobson13

    “In summary, I see more reasons to rest the starters against the Lakers than against the Suns. This strategy appears likely that it will help the Spurs chances in the first round.”

    This sums up my belief. Also keep in mind that the Spurs have had a relatively light schedule lately AND the Big 3 have played light minutes (in the mid to low 20’s over the past game or two). IMO, the big 3 plus Dyess should be in good shape to play serious minutes in the playoffs.

    In the end, this game means very little ESPECIALLY since we have a back to back and play in Pheonix tomorrow. I say roll out Splitter, Anderson, Green, etc and see how they do against a struggling Lakers team. If they lose by 15pts or less, then it’s a moral victory (even though I don’t normally believe in those). On Wednesday we can play Phoenix at full strength to get us geared back up for the playoffs.

  • ty

    Who is this asian lady Yori that sits 2 seats awat from jack court side… WHO IS SHE???????

  • Pandemonium

    This game means more to the Lakers than the Spurs. Lakers are at home playing in front of Jack on national tv, and you know they need to pull off a significant win to get the media back on their wagon. Beating the Spurs does that more than beating the Kings. This game is a scrimmage for the Spurs – a chance to try different matchups for the games that really matter in a couple of weeks, should these teams face each other in the playoffs – and you know they’re gonna. I hope to see Splitter vs Bynum tonight. But really, this is a game where Spurs fans can relax and not worry about a W or an L. Vs. Phoenix..let’s make it a 3-point shooting match and have a blast.

  • DorieStreet

    Knicks’ Stoudemire out for tonight’s game vs Bulls.

  • ChrisTX

    I want to see a big game from Tiago tonight and even Blair.

    We need these kids confident going to the playoff.
    Tiago is crafty and draws foul, in need a real time practice on his free throw

    GO SPURS GO

  • DieHardSpur

    Technically, this means more to them than us. Play the game straight up, everyone getting season averages. We win, we win. We don’t, oh well. We have done great on back 2 backs so far this year.

  • Rafael Reynal

    Having the best record in the NBA is not small thing. Moral and confidence lifting accomplishment. I think any team would benefit from it regarding everything else that can be said.

  • http://readramblerant.blogspot.com/ Humberto

    Great read. Looking at the numbers, I am surprised, but not really, at the 35 USG rating for Kobe. I’d personally like to see the Spurs starters play, but not push it too hard. I think the Spurs aren’t too concerned with when they face the Lakers in the playoffs, because if you’re going face them, then get it out the way.

  • Judd

    Have to agree w/ Timmay concerning home court in the finals. It’s more than just a game 7. And if you’ve been watching the Celtics and Magic, you probably know that the Heat and Bulls looks like the teams to beat in the East. There is a very good chance we would play the Bulls in the finals, and obviously, the Spurs should plan like they are going to make it. Otherwise, none of this matters. @ Therealkman- the Lakers need a win. They don’t want to drop to 3rd or 4th seed. I’d be very surprised if they rest there guys.

  • Bruno

    Rest the starters!
    Health>>>>>Homecourt against Chicago-

  • jwalt

    Tough call about who plays tonight but I do think it’s important that our main players (first 8 or so) have some success against the Lakers tonight, just to wash away the sting from the drubbing they took in the last game.

    Of course the perfect scenario for us Laker haters is to have them finish 3rd and have to play Portland in the first round. Because it is so perfect, I’m sure it won’t happen.

  • CGD

    I’d much prefer giving up HCA to Chicago, if it means not seeing the Lakers in the 2nd round. I’d rest the starters tonight…

  • Titletown99030507d

    Lots of Splitter today and tomorrow. I would like to see the team feeding Splitter going to the basket and also an inside game to boot all night long just to get those Lakers guessing until we meet them again in a few weeks. If Splitter has a big night that’s more for the Lakers to chew on for a while.

  • Rafael

    @CGD They need lose to Spurs and Sacramento to drop #4 seed.

  • DorieStreet

    For giggles and laughs (and to see if you can refrain from throwing something at the TV), Spurs fans in the local/regional broadcast market tune in TNT at the beginning/halves/postgame of the double-header to see their take on the team. (I have no choice, so some of your come along for the ride.— :) :( :O

  • betsyduncan

    Yep, a heavy dose of Tiago is called for! But let our starting 5 start—they don’t have to finish, obviously.

  • rob

    Posting before reading any of the comments. Sorry if it concludes with anybody else as repeating.

    Spurs will focus on winning but not in the usual manner. They have proven to take some playoff bound teams to their limit with playing without the big three. The bench is ready for this type of game. Lets prove we are formidable and can be counted on.

    Some close moments. Some resilience by the Lakers (Pride). But all in all a moment that can truly define this team going into the playoffs for not only themselves…but the doubt which can be suplanted in the minds of their upcoming opponents thus elevating the confidence of the entire team.

    Nothing but positive can be taken from this game won or lost if the bench can hold their own during moments of drought from the big three.

  • betsyduncan

    I’m with you, Rob!
    “Nothing but positive can be taken from this game won or lost if the bench can hold their own during moments of drought from the big three.” = Win/win!

  • Nima K.

    Thank you Pop for resting the staters and playing the 2nd unit.

    This was a good loss. LAL played all it’s bigshots and still we scored 93 points? Well done. (even though some of our reserves didn’t do well, I’m still content with this loss).

    Now Dallas plays LAL, and all we have to do is focus on OKC. (MEM will beat the clippers and attain 7th seed, while NOLA will probably lose to the MAVs and fall to 8 again).

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    If you are a true Spurs fan, you had to love how the Spurs 2nd and mostly 3rd unit was hanging tough with the Lakers up until the last 3 minutes of the game….Bonner was hitting his 3, so was Neal and then Blair was being aggressive inside.

    The only thing that was troublesome was watching Tiago try and hit hooks shoots, yuck.