Backcourt Depth Gives a New Look
By now, with another spring showdown set to begin Monday, the Lakers should be familiar with the San Antonio Spurs.
There are Tim Duncan and David Robinson patrolling the paint, forward Malik Rose energizing the team in a reserve role, point guard Tony Parker storming around the court like a whirling dervish and forward Bruce Bowen clamping down on the opposition’s top perimeter threat.
What the Spurs lacked while losing eight of nine playoff games to the Lakers the last two seasons were players with the skills of Emanuel Ginobili and Stephen Jackson, who have bolstered San Antonio’s backcourt depth.
Ginobili is a 25-year-old rookie and Jackson is a third-year player who was on the roster last season but was not a factor.
They give the Spurs a different look, one that led them to the top overall record and seeding in the Western Conference in 2002-03, one the team hopes will carry the day against the Lakers in the second round.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Monday at San Antonio.
The Spurs like to run, exploiting the speed of Parker, Ginobili and Jackson. They also aren’t timid when it comes to pulling up for jumpers beyond the three-point arc, and that makes it more difficult to double-team Duncan in the low post.
“We needed guys who could step up and make shots,” San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said, referring to the two three-pointers apiece Ginobili and Jackson made in four consecutive possessions Thursday in a series-clinching victory over the Phoenix Suns. “In the playoffs, someone will knock down a three and it can change the whole momentum in the game, and our guys have been able to do that.”
Ginobili, from Argentina, was an all-star for three seasons in Italy before signing last summer with the Spurs. He helped lead Argentina to the silver medal at the 2002 World Championships at Indianapolis last September.
Jackson, nursing an ankle injury, was the Spurs’ leading scorer in Game 6, with 21 points on six-for-14 shooting, which included five-for-nine shooting on three-pointers. Later, he sounded determined to seize the moment.
“We’ve got something to prove,” Jackson said. “We can’t worry about the team we’re playing or who are the champions.... I’m trying to win. You don’t have time to be hurt. When your team needs you, you’ve got to come out and help. If that means playing hurt or playing beat up, you’ve got to do it if that’s what it takes to win.”
One key to the Spurs’ victory over the Suns was their ability to draw more fouls and shoot more free throws. San Antonio held a 199-166 edge over Phoenix at the free-throw line. The edge probably won’t be as wide for the Spurs when facing Shaquille O’Neal in the next round.