by Cameron Dalton
Experience, experience, experience. This is one of the more notable things I stated in my last article about San Antonio’s experience and playoff prowess. Although the savvy Spurs have been around the block and know the ropes of the NBA, they will now have to deal with the surging Los Angeles Lakers.
By winning 17 of their last 19 games, the defending back to back champs are steam rolling through every team leaving nothing to chance. Though the Spurs are still a virtual lock to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Lakers’ post All-Star break surge has raised at least two main questions. Why and how did L.A. becoming virtually invincible in the second half of the season, and what do they have that the Spurs do not ?
Let’s take a look at each team starting lineups staring with San Antonio. The Spurs have an explosive team lead by quick, shifty point guard Tony Parker and versatile shot maker Manu Ginobili manning the 2 guard spot. The front court boasts dynamic scoring in the form of forwards Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess, and at center, the ever-reliable future hall of Famer Tim Duncan who at this stage of his career, is sharing minutes with Matt Bonner.
Aside from Tony Parker, all the starters are in their thirties, but somehow, they have posted a remarkable record and undeniably stand tall over the Western Conference.
Now take a look at the Red-hot Lakers. They have their veteran rock-solid point guard Derek Fisher, hot-shooting, game breaker Kobe Bryant, and their Big Men Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Surprisingly, they too have only one player under thirty in the starting lineup (Andrew Bynum).
Both teams have the wisdom and experience which comes with age, and since the 1999-2000 season, have collectively captured eight NBA Titles. So, which team should have the edge come playoff time ?
I believe it’s best found in these teams’ playoff records and something a little deeper than statistics. We are all aware of Los Angeles’ road to a 3-peat this season, after having played in the NBA Final the past 3 seasons, losing to the Boston Celtics in 2008, and then hoisting the hardware in 2009 and again in 2010. There is no doubt that this passion has been fueling the Lakers since the All-Star break. Based on their play in the first half of the season, they were considered out of contention, but in the second half, they kicked it into overdrive.
The Spurs have undergone their first 6 game losing streak since the 1997- 1998 season yet still seem to maintain the poise of a championship team, but lets focus on the playoffs. The Spurs’ most recent championship was in 2007 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they have failed to ever make it back since then, only getting as far as the Western Conference finals. We must credit them for an amazing .750% winning percentage in the playoffs, and four titles (’99, ’03, ’05, and ’07). Definitely a Championship team and definitely a pothole in The Lakers road that could possible shatter all their hopes of another 3-peat.
Should this marquee playoff series happen, I have to go with the Lakers.
The reason why, is deeper than history, stats, facts or any form of evidence you can find in the box score. It’s Heart. The passion one feels to give it their all and lay it all on the line just to achieve their one goal. It is worth more than money, more glorious than fame, and stronger than will. If anyone has ever played a sport they know how it feels and this is why I predict that despite the unquestioned heart of the Spurs, the Lakers are playing on another level, and will dispatch San Antonio rather easily in five games when the moment arrives. L.A. wins the Western Conference Title and gets that shot at the 3-peat.
Thank you for reading and for you aspiring Basketball players out there: If you are going to play the sacred game of basketball play it with all your heart.