With Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals set to tip off tomorrow night, the Lakers talked about some of the matchups they’ll see against San Antonio.
As always with the Spurs, the conversation centered around former NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan and what the team has to do to slow the center down.
“We’ve tried not to have to double team against Tim in the past knowing that so much of their offense relies on three point shooting from the perimeter and he’s a good passer that really breaks down the defense too,” said Coach Jackson. “But, there are always extenuating circumstances; people get in foul trouble and you have to start doing something to protect players to help your team out so there’s a chance we may have to double team him.”
Jackson said that the Lakers will initially throw Gasol at Duncan, adding that he expects the Spurs to go inside to Tim early and often.
“Without a doubt, he’s going to have to play him (Duncan),” said Jackson. “They’ll see what it’s like, they’ll test it out early to see if they can create a foul situation. That’s not unusual in that situation. We’ll probably do the same thing.”
Gasol said he plans to keep the ball out of Duncan’s hands as much as he possibly can while making sure he keeps Tim off the offensive glass.
“The difference is that he’s a key part of their success and the ball runs a lot though his hands so you have to do a really good job defensively on him, especially if he doesn’t get his teammates involved,” said Pau. “I think that’s one of the key things that you contain him one-on-one so your defense doesn’t have to rotate too much and scramble too much because that’s when they play comfortably and get those corner shots.”
Duncan isn’t the only player the Lakers have struggled against in the past as Derek Fisher believes that Spurs point guard Tony Parker has the potential to dominate like Deron Williams did in the Second Round.
“I think he’s in the top handful of guys at the point guard position that have really separated themselves,” said the Lakers veteran. “You go from guys like Deron Williams and Chris Paul and Steve Nash and I think Tony’s in that discussion with those guys in terms of the impact he has on his team and his individual skills and his strengths. It’s going to be a tough cover for me and a tough cover for our team to figure out ways to make things difficult for him to do what he does best and that’s get into the paint.”
While Kobe won’t have to go up against a skilled offensive player like Duncan or Parker, he’ll have his hands full trying to get around Bruce Bowen–widely considered to be one of the best wing defenders in the NBA.
“It’ll be fun,” said Bryant. “He’s a great defender. They’re a great defensive team. For me, it’s more so about making sure that my teammates get involved in the game an continue to do the things that got us to this point—execute, space them out and move the ball. That’s really how you give yourself an opportunity to beat a team like San Antonio is just by moving the ball.”
After the Lakers were dominated in the rebounding department in the Second Round against the physically more intimidating Utah Jazz, Jackson said that his team must improve as they look ahead to the Spurs.
“We have to be a better defensive rebounding team than we were in the Utah series,” said Jackson. “There’s no doubt that we gave more chances away. That’s also part of their game and part of the way they play. I think we’ll be OK. We may not be as dominant as I’d like us to be, but I think we’ll be OK there.”
According to Jackson, the battle of the benches will also prove critical in determining the outcome of the series as San Antonio has a plethora of savvy veterans to counter the Lakers’ youthful reserve corps of Farmar, Walton, Turiaf and Vujacic.
“We have really a young group of guys on our second unit,” said Jackson. “They’ve got a group of experienced guys. They know how to play the game and they have a tenor of how they carry themselves. They have a lot of confidence in each other’s ability. We have to be very aggressive with that group.”