Lakers Playoffs: Keys to Los Angeles Shocking San Antonio Spurs in First Round

The 2012-13 regular season was a tumultuous one for the Los Angeles Lakers, but they have somehow managed to make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The Lakers will take on the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and certainly have an uphill battle, but upsets aren't that uncommon in the NBA postseason.

Los Angeles is facing a great deal of adversity with Kobe Bryant out for the season due to a torn Achilles, but the team managed to come together in its final games without him. There is no doubt that the Lakers are a better team with a legend like Kobe in the fold, but they will have to soldier on without him.

The Spurs are heavily favored to advance past the Lakers in the first round; however, an L.A. victory isn't out of the question. Here are the three biggest keys to the Lakers shocking San Antonio in the first round. 


Dwight Howard Must Be a Superstar

When Bryant was in the lineup, it was obvious that he was the go-to guy as everyone, including center Dwight Howard, deferred to him. Now that Kobe is out, team basketball is of the utmost importance, but somebody still needs to step up and take charge. Howard has been criticized for an inability or unwillingness to do that over the years, but now is the time for him to prove his worth as a leader.

Howard has had an up-and-down season, but he really came on late in the season and was a big reason why Los Angeles was able to win the two games following Bryant's injury. Howard was a monster against the Spurs as he dropped 26 points and nabbed 17 rebounds, and he took charge against the Houston Rockets as well with 16 points and 18 rebounds as the Lakers secured the No. 7 seed.

Despite the criticism that Howard has received, his final numbers this season were extremely impressive. Also, he has a history of leading a team through the playoffs as he took the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2008-09. Repeating that feat ...

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