Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs head into Los Angeles for a big game against the Lakers. If the Lakers vs Celtics game on Sunday was a preview of a potential NBA Finals, this game could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs head into this game following a tough loss to Portland Trailblazers, while the Lakers narrowly avoided defeat in a game against the Houston Rockets. So what does this game mean?
The significance of this game should not be over looked. This will be the game that tells us if the Spurs are legitimate title contenders. This game may also be the last straw in determining whether the Lakers need to make a mid-season trade or not. Currently the Spurs sit atop of the Western Conference, with the Lakers back a comfortable 6 and a half games. While this game won’t mean much for the standings, it can tell us a lot about what will happen in the Playoffs.
The first time these two teams played nearly a month ago, the Spurs handed the Lakers their tenth loss in a convincing, 97-82 victory. This was a particularly bad game for Kobe Bryant, who scored 21 points on 8-27 shooting from the field. In fact, the Lakers, as a team, shot just 35.4% from the field that game. The Spurs won by 15 points with Tim Duncan having a 2 point, 4 rebound night. That loss came at a time when the Lakers were in a team turmoil, following blowouts to the Milwaukee Bucks, and then that Christmas game against the Miami Heat. I guess you could say that the Lakers were at an all time low.
The Lakers have picked up their play since then, but are still in the middle of another team crisis. Following a loss to the Celtics on Sunday, team general manager Mitch Kupchak says that he would have no problem swinging a trade to shake things up for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even former Laker great, Magic Johnson, admitted a trade might be the way to go to inject some life into the Lakers’ stale play. If that wasn’t enough, resident headcase, Ron Artest, chimed in and said that he would welcome a trade out of LA. Of course he would later deny that, but you got to figure, something is rotten in the state of California.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are having one of the best regular seasons in team history. They’re the first team to 40 wins, and only have 8 losses. Tim Duncan is playing less minutes than, well, ever, and is basically waiting to do damage in the playoffs. The team is carried by the stellar play of Manu Ginobili, a great bench, the point guard prowess of Tony Parker, and the surprise play of rookie, Gary Neal. If think this Spurs team may be the best team that nobody is talking about. With all the focus Boston, the Lakers, and Miami get, the Spurs are sitting at a 40-8 mark looking down at the Western Conference.
Yes, this game is certainly a preview of the Western Conference Finals. So, will the Lakers avenge that embarrassing loss to the Spurs from December? Or will they fall, and be forced to make a move before the deadline? Will the Spurs finally get the recognition they deserve, with a victory? Or will they lose, causing fans to prematurely crown the Lakers Western Conference Champions? Who knows, but this game is full great story lines, and will undoubtedly be one of the classics of this regular season.