The San Antonio Spurs (40-8) will face the NBA defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (34-15) tonight in Los Angeles in a battle of the top two teams in the Western Conference.
The Lakers will be looking for revenge tonight as the last time these two teams faced off in December it was a 97-82 loss for the Lakers in San Antonio.
The Lakers were pegged as the clear favorite in the West heading into the season but the Spurs have stole the spotlight with their start to the season and league leading record.
Los Angeles has struggled against the best teams in the NBA and add the fact Andrew Bynum suffered a bone bruise and is questionable for tonight's contest makes this contest even more important for the Spurs to strike while Los Angeles is down. Moreover, Los Angeles has been dealing with other injuries to key players such as Matt Barnes, Ron Artest trade rumors, and all adds up to Los Angeles not looking like the dominant team as in seasons past.
As for the Spurs, they will be looking to get back on the winning track after suffering only their eighth loss of the season to the Portland Trail Blazers and extend their lead in the West over the Lakers as they continue their annual Rodeo Road Trip.
To talk about tonight's contest, I turn to friend of Project Spurs Rey Moralde of The No Look Pass the best Lakers site on the Internet.
In this Q&A, Rey talks about the Artest trade rumors, if the Lakers are pressing the panic button, what it will take for Los Angeles to get the win and more. To read the Q&A I did with Rey click HERE to visit The No Look Pass.
Jeff: How serious are these Ron Artest trade rumors out of Los Angeles? If true does this mean the Lakers are pushing the panic button?
Rey: I don't know how serious they are and I'm not one to speculate. Didn't Rajon Rondo supposedly want out of Boston? He's still here, right?
Not sure if the team is pushing the panic button but the fans are pretty, pretty close to it. The Lakers are not playing their best, which I'm sure you've seen. There's even more reason to panic if the Lakers don't beat the Spurs since L.A. has a terrible record against the top teams.
(note: Artest has said he is happy in Los Angeles and has denied wanting a trade out of LA)
Former Lakers' GM Jerry West recently called out the Lakers defense or lack thereof. Did you agree with his thoughts?
Oh, they can definitely do better and I'm pretty positive that they can turn it up to the level where they were in last season's playoffs. They're missing some key guys (Barnes, Bynum is in and out)... but we also gotta realize that the Lakers have played essentially an extra season in the last 3 1/2 years. They're going for their fourth consecutive Finals and that hasn't been done since the 80s. They're tired so they gotta reach down and get those third and fourth winds.
How would you assess the Lakers past the midway point of the season?
Record-wise, it's what I expected. Against top teams, though? Another story. Then again, the Lakers faced this sort of crisis last year (including the trade rumors... though there was no one "claiming they wanted out" last year). I'd like to see them win this game to regain their confidence. By then, the Laker fans can go away from the panic button for at least, a week or so.
The Lakers trail the Spurs in the West standings. Can the Lakers catch the Spurs for the top seed in the West?
I think the Lakers will make a run at the end of the season but I don't think they'll catch the Spurs. The Lakers have a tough road trip ahead before the All-Star break and by then, the gap would be too big to catch for L.A.
Let's talk about tonight's game. The last time these two teams met in San Antonio, it was a game where the Lakers got blownout. What adjustments should Los Angeles make to get the win tonight?
Shot distribution. Only two guys attempted more than 10 shots. We expected Kobe Bryant to take 'em, sure... and then you had Shannon Brown chucking shots (1/11). Pau Gasol didn't even have more than 8 shots. 15 assists by the Lakers in that game. They have to get everybody involved.
Defensively, they need to keep the waterbug guards in check. Parker, Hill, and Neal were getting some looks. Ginobili was great at getting everyone involved. And RJ was also key in the previous game. Also, can someone box out DeJuan Blair?
And there's the talk of focus by Kobe. It's now bigger than ever now that Ron Artest trade rumors are going around. The Lakers should treat this like a Playoff game, in my view; get focused, play the game the right way (go inside-out), keep Pau happy with more touches, and, now that it's apparent, keep Ron happy by letting him get more run and a rhythm into the game.
I would like to say that it would be encouraging that as long as they play better, even in a loss... they would be okay. But now, I say they need this win more than ever to squash anything negative that's going on with the team.
• The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers will face off tomorrow and Lakers' Andrew Bynum says he will give it a go despite an injury:
Andrew Bynum said he would try to play against San Antonio (40-8) despite a bone bruise in his left knee, and the Lakers will try to reduce the 6 1/2 -game-difference between the teams in the Western Conference standings.
"He looked like he was ready," [Phil] Jackson said of Bynum. (source latimes.com)
• The Portland Trail Blazers may have beaten the Spurs last night, but Portland coach Nate McMillan knows a winner when he sees one:
“That organization has been consistent,” Portland coach Nate McMillan says. “Some would call it a dynasty.” (source portlandtribune.com)
• Speaking of the Trail Blazers-Spurs game from last night, did you catch Manu Ginobili's fake on Trail Blazers' Dante Cunningham? Check it out:
• A dream NBA Finals matchup would be the Spurs vs. the Boston Celtics:
With all due respect to David Stern, Pat Riley, Miami’s Big Three, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, everybody at ABC and the millions of NBA fans who are dying to see a Miami Heat-L.A. Lakers Finals, we’ve got a better championship series waiting for you in June.
That’s right, Celtics versus Spurs.
What’s that, if you’re forced to watch those two teams, you won’t need Sominex to help you get some sleep?
Sure, Boston-San Antonio wouldn’t have the glitz or glamour of a Lakers-Heat Finals and the first-ever June showdown between Kobe and LeBron. We have to admit, we’re rooting for that matchup because we’d like to see at least one Finals pitting the game’s top two players. As far as sheer entertainment goes, who wouldn’t want to see Lakers-Heat, especially with a lockout looming only a few weeks after they put the balls away for the season? (source msn.foxsports.com)
• After the recent drug violation by Memphis Grizzlies O.J. Mayo, the Spurs are careful to what their players intake to avoid the same issue as Mayo is dealing with:
The Spurs regularly distribute dietary supplements to players, part of the conditioning regimen that falls under the purview of strength and conditioning coaches Mike Brungardt and Chris White. But each product has been thoroughly vetted.
Along with the vitamins and minerals, they dispense advice.
“We meet with every player individually and go over all supplements we use, which we’ve obviously researched, even visited the labs to make sure everything is up to snuff,” Brungardt said. “When we have the first team meeting of the year, we address the fact we want all of them to use only supplements we’re providing. If they have something else they want to use, they have to make us aware of it so we can make sure it’s safe and not to use anything at all they got over the counter.
“It’s just too risky, and that’s something we re-emphasize a couple of times each season.” (source Express News)
• NBA.com recently discussed which team is best in the NBA. Seems it mainly came down to the Spurs or the Celtics. Here is an excerpt:
Tomorrow night Western Conference powers will square off as the San Antonio Spurs (40-8) face the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers (34-15) in Los Angeles for the second time this season.
The Spurs and Lakers last met in December as the Spurs came away with the victory over the Lakers 97-82. The Lakers will be looking for revenge while the Spurs will look to get back on the winning track after suffering a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
If you are a Spurs fan in Los Angeles and want to catch the game then you are in luck as ticket prices at the Staples Centers are still available and lower than the average costs.
The cheapest seats are in the 300's corner and 300's baseline. There are 174 tickets still available in both zones for a steal at $89. Click HERE to get yourself a ticket for tomorrow's game and join the Spurs for game two of the Rodeo Road Trip.
And if you want to enter for a chance to win a free pair of tickets to this month's Spurs-Oklahoma City Thunder game in San Antonio, follow @projectspurstiq on Twitter. It's that easy.
Tim Duncan's streak of 11 straight All-Star game starts appears to have come to an end.
Tomorrow we'll find out if Duncan will make the All-Star team at all.
Duncan has made the All-Star team every year since he entered the league, aside from the lockout-shortened season in 98-99.
There's been a lot of debate about whether or not Duncan deserves a spot amongst the stars in Los Angeles in just over two weeks.
Duncan's 13.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game are seen as pedestrian by many around the league, but he's also averaging a career low 29.3 minutes per game.
At the same time, teammates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are also at risk of not making the Western Conference squad and both average more points per game than Duncan.
But would a 40-8 record be at all possible without Duncan patrolling the paint.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn't seem to think so, according to a recent article by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press.
“We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in, record-wise, if Timmy wasn’t out there doing what he does night after night, and his consistency," Popovich said. "So when I look across the board, I would hope he makes the All-Star team.”
Unfortunately, Pop, who will coach the Western Conference All-Stars, was not able to vote for Duncan as a reserve since coaches are not able to vote for their own players.
Duncan, however, doesn't seem to mind taking some vacation time in February for the first time in his career.
"I think there's a lot of guys playing well that deserve to be (All-Stars) a lot better than I am," Duncan told Chris Tomasson of Fanhouse. "I'm definitely not counting (on an All-Star selection)."
Charles Barkley, who didn't list Duncan among his choices for Western Conference reserves agrees.
"This isn’t a lifetime achievement award," Barkley said. "The award should go to guys who are having the best first half of the season.”
Jeff Garcia and I got a chance to talk to Luis Scola and Jordan Hill of the Houston Rockets before they tipped off against the Spurs on Saturday to ask their opinion on the topic.
"I'm such a big fan of Tim Duncan. I'll never say he is playing worse or declining in his career," Scola said. "I just think he is just dangerous and he's just a great player. He's maybe not getting the same numbers as before but I think he still has the ability to do it if he wants to."
In the Spurs high-octane offense, the ball has definitely been in Ginobili's and Parker's hands more whereas the ball went through Duncan when the Spurs played more of a half-court offense.
Hill said he was surprised when he heard about Duncan not getting the start.
"That's a big surprise, but I think father time's catching up with him."
"His body's wearing out, but he's still trying to fight it," Hill said. "He's still one of the best bigs in the league and definitely one of the best bigs of all time. He's been an All-Star a lot of times so one time won't hurt."
If father time is catching up, that might be a surprise to Knicks center Amar'e Stoudamire.
Stoudamire had to watch as Duncan put on a display, finishing the game with 21 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and five blocked shots in 35 minutes.
Duncan's done the same against some of the better centers in the league. Aside from Stoudamire, Nene, Kevin Love, Emeka Okafor and Mehmet Okur have all caught Duncan on nights when he's played more than 30 minutes and his line has been very similar to the one he put up against the Knicks.
But Barkley may be right about a spot amongst the reserves going to someone who has played well through the first half of the season.
After all, Duncan cares more about the postseason anyway, and a fifth championship ring is the only hardware he really needs.
The San Antonio Spurs have officially kicked off the Rodeo Road trip with a visit to Portland last night in a loss to the Trail Blazers.
That was just game one of a nine games on the road for San Antonio, and with that being said, here are a few facts about the Spurs' annual road trip:
- Spurs will visit nine different cities over the course of 17 days.
- Since moving to the AT&T Center, the Spurs Rodeo Road Trip record is 44-20 (.688) (winning percentage prior to current road trip).
- Last season, the Spurs went 4-4 on the trip.
Breaking down the mileage:
- San Antonio to Portland - 2,493 miles.
- Portland to Los Angeles - 824 miles.
- Los Angeles to Sacramento - 360 miles.
- Sacramento to San Antonio - 1,455 miles.
- San Antonio to Detroit - 1,228 miles.
- Detroit to Toronto - 206 miles.
- Toronto to Philadelphia - 337 miles.
- Philadelphia to Washington DC - 120 miles.
- Washington DC to Newark - 197 miles.
- Newark to Chicago - 704 miles.
- Chicago to San Antonio - 1,041 miles.
- Grand total: 8,965 miles.
"He had a decent game, didn't he? We held him to 40 or 35. I stopped counting. He was great."
Those were the words from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich regarding Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
After starting the game with a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, the Spurs looked like they were beginning their annual Rodeo Road Trip on the right path. Little did the Spurs know, a former Texas product would lead his team to a 99-86 victory over them.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 40 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in what he considers the Trail Blazers (26-22) best win of the season.
"It has to be. This is the best team in the league. This is big for us, coming off two losses," Aldridge said.
He could not be stopped. Whether it was hitting his consistent 18-foot jump shot, grabbing an offensive rebound for a simple put back, or effortlessly using his height and athleticism to catch easy lobs over the Spurs' smaller defenders.
After opening the game with a 7-0 run to start, San Antonio struggled to make a shot and get in any sort of rhythm. The Spurs went 9-23 in the first quarter and trailed the Trail Blazers 24-22 to end the first.
In the second quarter, DeJuan Blair and the Spurs' role players sparked the team with some much-needed energy as the team scored 30 points in the second quarter. Blair had 14 points and 11 rebounds going into halftime. Right before the half, Manu Ginobili hit a step back three pointer to send the Spurs into halftime with a 52-47 lead and strong momentum.
In the third quarter, the game got sloppy. Both teams were having inconsistent possessions at a time and had trouble connecting on any baskets. The Trail Blazers were fortunate to score 24 points in the quarter and hold the Spurs to just 19 points. The game was tied 71-71 going into the fourth quarter.
The difference in the game came in the fourth quarter; with big plays coming from LaMarcus Aldridge, guard Wesley Matthews (21 points on 50% shooting) and point guard Andre Miller (18 points and 9 assists), the Trail Blazers used the Rose Garden’s mass energy to score 28 points in the fourth quarter and hold the Spurs to just 15 points. With 2:30 left in the ball game, San Antonio coach Popovich pulled the starters and let the bench finish the game. He’d seen enough.
After having strong momentum heading into the locker room at halftime, the Spurs offense struggled mightily as the team was only able to score a combined 34 points in the second half. Credit Portland’s defense for holding the Spurs' "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to a combined 38 points. With the loss, the Spurs fell to 40-8 on the season.
Next for the Spurs is a Thursday night matchup in Los Angeles against the defending champion Lakers.
- Spurs point guard Tony Parker had one of his worst games of the season only scoring 6 points (3-11 FG) in 32 minutes of action.
- Spurs rookie Gary Neal is in a shooting slump for the first time this season. Neal went 1-7 for 2 points against the Rockets on Saturday and finished 1-6 for 3 points tonight against the Trail Blazers.
- The Spurs perimeter defense did a fine job holding Portland to 15% shooting from behind the arc; however, the interior and mid range defense allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 51%.
Follow Paul on twitter: @24writer
The San Antonio Spurs started their annual Rodeo Road Trip on the wrong foot, losing to a badly depleted Portland Trail Blazers team 99-86.
What are the numbers that stood out in this Spurs' recent loss? Let's find out!
87.5 - The Blazers shot very well from the foul line making 21-24 (87.5%) free throws. The Spurs shot a measly 8-15 (53.3%) of their free throw attempts.
44.4 - The Spurs shot fairly well from beyond the arc, making 8-18 (44.4%) of their 3-pointers, while the Blazers were only 2-13 (15.4%) from the 3-point area. Portland also won the inside game, outscoring the Spurs 44-38 on inside points.
40 - As if to sway coaches to vote for him as an All Star reserve, LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career high 40 points and added 11 boards helping the Blazers defeat the league leading Spurs.
37 - Both teams were even in the rebounding department finishing with 37 a piece.
21 - Wesley Matthews added 21 points for the Blazers and was picked for the sophomore squad.
17 - Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 17 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists.
15 - Tim Duncan added 15 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes for San Antonio.
14 - DeJuan Blair had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season, but had only one rebound after the half. He was also selected to join the sophomore squad.
10 - George Hill scored 10 points off the Spurs' bench. Richard Jefferson also had 10 points and three boards in 36 minutes of action.
0 - Duncan and Hill did not commit a single turnover for the entire game despite playing 30 minutes or more.
Rookie Watch: Gary Neal had three points and one rebound in 16 minutes of action and was selected to play for the rookie squad. James Anderson scored three points in only three minutes of playing time and Tiago Splitter had one point in two minutes.
What's Next? The Spurs will visit the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Thursday.
Follow me on Twitter @RobbyLim21
• The San Antonio Spurs are officially on the annual Rodeo Road Trip and after the game against the Portland Trail Blazers, they will square off against their Western Conference rival Los Angeles Lakers who might be without the services of Andrew Bynum:
The Lakers, losers of four of their last seven games including their last two in a row at home, will be without starting center Andrew Bynum on Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets.
Bynum underwent an MRI on Tuesday morning that revealed a bone bruise on his left knee.
A timetable for Bynum's return is uncertain. The Lakers' next game is Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, who they trail by 7.5 games for first place in the Western Conference.
"It's going to be a day-to-day thing," Jackson said. "Bone bruises are a little bit difficult to just say when guys are going to come back." (source espn.com)
• Charlie Rosen gives the Spurs 1:1 odds at winning the title:
San Antonio Spurs 1:1 -- The only team whose discipline at both ends can compare to Boston's. In the past, San Antonio's postseason success was hugely dependent upon the accuracy of their outside shooting. But Richard Jefferson has found his niche and his jumper, plus the bull's-eye shooting of undrafted rookie Gary Neal has been a significant factor off the bench. The clutch play of San Antonio's old reliables -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and (to a lesser extent) Tony Parker -- should not be underestimated. Nor should Gregg Popovich's strategy of limiting his starters' minutes until the minutes really count.
• The Spurs say their goodbyes as the head on the Rodeo Road Trip:
• Spurs' DeJuan Blair is stepping up in his second year according to USA Today: