There was a point late in the Lakers-Rockets game when I knew there was just no way the NBA gods would let LA lose.
It just wouldn't seem right to see the Lakers play anyone other than their old rival, the Spurs, in the first round of this year's playoffs.
The Lakers have been a disaster all year until the end of season. The Spurs, a model of consistency, were humming along until injuries derailed their April. It's no secret that LA is hot and SA is not.
This series has major intrigue and many people are drinking the Lakers Kool-Aid again. Well I'm not one of them. The Spurs SHOULD win this series. Here's why.
Let's get to the elephant or in this case, the mamba, in the room. No Kobe? No chance. You just don't replace Kobe's scoring ability or clutch gene with anyone, especially Jodie Meeks.
LA made a nice push to get into the playoffs and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol looked formidable playing together down the stretch, but Kobe carried them ALL season. Let's not pretend they have been sans Kobe for awhile. He missed 2 games, both at home.
Steve Nash possibly coming back from the dead intrigues me, but no one knows what to expect from the former MVP bro-ster? Nash could finally find his place in the offense, which was dominated by Kobe all year, or be done for the series by the second quarter of Game 1.
That's not to say the Spurs don't have issues of their own. Tony Parker has not looked good this month. TP's been banged up and his play has dropped considerably, but he gets a bit of break in this series. I'll still take an 80 percent Parker over the current version of Nash or Steve Blake any day.
Manu needs to work himself back into game shape quick and Tiago will be tested inside by the Lakers bigs, who can control the paint and rebound extremely well. Tim has been All-NBA this season and I expect nothing less here.
For the Spurs, this series comes down to dominating the perimeter with Kawhi, Danny Green, Manu and Tony. The Lakers finished near the bottom of the league in overall defense (22nd) and have struggled all season defending speed and quickness.
Seriously, the Lakers are going to throw out Metta, Meeks and 54-year-old Antawn Jamison to defend the perimeter. If San Antonio cannot take advantage, especially with a rested Ginobili, then they're in trouble.
I understand the hesitation Spurs fans have after watching them play this month, and then watching Coach Popovich curiously waive Stephen Jackson. That move could come back to bite San Antonio, but I get the feeling it will not be an issue in this series. The Lakers simply dont have the wing scoring that will stretch the Spurs defense.
But hey, this is Spurs-Lakers playoffs we're talking about so it will be entertaining none the less. This is the 12th time SA and LA have met in the playoffs and sure, it probably would have been easier if the Spurs got Houston, but the NBA gods have spoken and they know a good playoffs matchup when they see one. Spurs over Kobe-less Lakers in 6.