The NBA got its wish when the Utah Jazz and then the Houston Rockets wet the bed on the final day of the regular season, opening the door for the surging Lakers to leapfrog the Rockets — and the certain playoff doom of an OKC matchup — in exchange for a bout with their old old nemesis, who find themselves limping into the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs probable starting lineup:
PG Tony Parker
SG Danny Green
SF Kawhi Leonard
PF Tim Duncan
C Tiago Splitter
Jettisoning Stephen Jackson just days before the playoffs began in exchange for Tracy McGrady would seem a questionable move by most clubs, but for the continuity-based Spurs it could be suicidal. Whether hyperbole or not, the Spurs are in a bit of trouble. Dealing with injuries up through the last week of the season to Parker, Leonard, Ginobili and others – they’d be in quite a bit more trouble if their MVP wasn’t lining up against an old-as-dirt sieve like Steve Nash.
Lakers probable starting lineup:
PG Steve Nash
SG Steve Blake
SF Metta World Peace
PF Pau Gasol
C Dwight Howard
The injury to Kobe Bryant seems like a fitting consequence to the league’s shameless attempts to drag the Lakers kicking and screaming into the playoffs — if only the Rockets could have finished off the Suns before losing to the Lakers, OKC would be throttling them in the first round instead of giving the Lakers a shot against a not-quite-healthy Spurs squad that was the only Western Conference qualifier to finish the final 10 games of the season under .500.
Nevertheless, the Spurs will need to get a more than solid performance from its bigs to contend with the Lakers twin towers and a return to form by Ginobili and Parker if they wish to make it a quick series. With their superior depth and coaching, I have no doubts they will.
Prediction: Spurs in 5.