The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs resume their rivalry tonight, as the two teams face off at AT&T Center in San Antonio. They are the only two teams in the NBA this season to use the same starting lineup in every game. However, the Lakers have ridden their starters harder that the Spurs so far this season.
Tony Parker leads the Spurs averaging 33.2 minutes per game, and he is one of only three Spurs, joining Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson, to average over 30 minutes per contest. Tim Duncan, now 34, plays just 28.9 minutes per game, and is averaging a career-low 13.6 points per game this season. Last season, at 17.9 points per game, was the first time Duncan averaged less than 19 points per contest in his illustrious career.
The Spurs have had a player play 40 minutes just three times this season, all by Tony Parker. The Lakers, meanwhile, have had 23 such games, including 14 by Pau Gasol and six by Lamar Odom. Kobe Bryant has been well-rested this season, averaging just 33.2 minutes per game. Kobe has eclipsed the 40-minute mark just twice this season, both losses, including the Christmas Day debacle against Miami.
The Spurs bench has averaged 34.8 points per game this season, compared to 29.1 points per contest for the Lakers. The Lakers big three off the bench have been the Killer Bs: Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, and Steve Blake. In the 29 games those three have played together, they have averaged 23.6 points on 44.9% shooting, including 41.3% from beyond the arc, and 86.9% free throws. However, in the last two games, both losses, the bench has struggled.
Brown, Barnes, and Blake combined for just 17 against Milwaukee and just 12 against the Heat, and over the last two games that trio has made just 11 of 35 field goals (31.4%), including just three of 15 three-pointers (20%). Blake in particular was held scoreless in each of the last two games, missing all seven of his field goals. Blake has not attempted a two-point field goal in four games, and has made just three of 17 three-pointers during that span.
A stronger effort from the Lakers bench is needed if they are to snap this two-game skid, against the team with the NBA's best record. When Lakers reserves outscore the opponent's reserves, they are 10-1 this season. Conversely, the Spurs are 16-1 when they win the bench scoring battle.
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