Morning Shootaround: Game 4, Spurs-Lakers
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Lakers, Artest has now been ruled out of game 4, joining Kobe, Nash, Blake, Meeks, and God knows who else.
Admittedly, Artest had been playing quite poorly in the series, and was mostly invisible (save for the very visible though incidental forearm he delivered to Parker’s face in Game 3). Earl Clark will take his place in the starting line-up, and will likely contribute in equal measure. But as is often the case with injury, it’s not the back-up one needs to worry about, it’s the back-up’s back-up. Who now comes in and backs up Earl Clark?
And for that matter, how many players will be on the Lakers’ active list tomorrow? I don’t think they had a chance at all to win this series, but this has just become ridiculous. I expect the Lakers to come out strong to start the game, but for their will to break fairly quickly, and if the Spurs can build a double digit lead going into halftime, the second half should go by without so much as a whimper.
The real intrigue will be who gets the start in Splitter’s place tomorrow. Blair? Bonner? Or maybe even Baynes? It makes sense to keep Bonner in his role coming off the bench. Blair is intriguing, but he gives up so much size to both Gasol and Howard, it’d be tough to go with him for too long. That’s why Baynes is a dark horse option. I’d really like to see him get some good minutes in Game 4, as he always plays well in his short stints in garbage time.
I also wonder if Pop will dress McGrady, giving him a chance to get some game time action late in the game if the result is more or less decided. He can be a valuable piece down the line, particularly facing bigger guards/smaller forwards in the future (*cough**cough*Durant and LeBron*cough**cough*). Leonard will get the majority of minutes, but McGrady might prove useful in small stints. Now would be a good time to see what we have there.
Finishing off the Lakers tomorrow would also be beneficial to getting some rest and good practice time in. Splitter will most likely miss 1-2 weeks, which could have him back in the middle of the second round (in which we will face either the Nuggets or the Warriors, where smaller line-ups will likely be employed more frequently). And early reports show that Diaw is close to coming back as well.
Pulling the camera back a bit, the West is now really wide open and there for the Spurs. Watching each series, what I’m struck most by is the lack of discipline for most of these teams in late-game crush-time situations. Nuggets-Warriors is about as exciting as it gets, but I think both teams would wilt under San Antonio’s execution and poise. The Rockets can’t seem to get out of their own way, running no discernible offense; the Thunder still possess the best player in the West, but have even less offensive discipline than before. The Clippers have a ton of talent and can overwhelm a team, but are easily disrupted if things don’t go their way. The Grizzlies are the most disciplined of the teams left, but really lack enough offensive firepower. It will be really interesting to see who comes out of the Clippers-Grizzlies series, and then how that team fares against the Thunder.
Game 4 tips off Sunday afternoon at 4pm PST.
Go Spurs Go.
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