Stars Have Aligned for a Lakers First-Round Upset

The Los Angeles Lakers are hardly a safe bet in the 2013 NBA playoffs. Their season hasn’t gone as planned, and despite being the league’s next super team, they’ve looked far more ordinary than super thus far.

That being said, their postseason hopes are alive, and they couldn’t have asked for a much better matchup than the San Antonio Spurs.

For L.A., playoff seeding wasn’t set until the final game of the 2012-13 campaign. A season-ending overtime victory gave the team seventh place, surpassing the Houston Rockets, and earning the Lakers a matchup against San Antonio.

A faceoff with the Spurs isn’t going to be a cakewalk for L.A.—let alone anyone else—but the truth is that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have presented much bigger problems in a seven-game series.

During 2012-13, L.A. faced off against the Thunder four times, winning just once. It had an impressive 105-96 victory on Jan. 27, but the other three contests resulted in three losses, all of which came by an average of more than 12.5 points per game.

Against the Spurs, the Lakers fared much better. Although they only managed to squeeze out one win in three tries—a win without Kobe Bryant, nonetheless—they never lost by more than three points.

Mike D’Antoni has more experience coaching against Gregg Popovich than he does against Scott Brooks, and that history, although not always in his favor, gives him a better idea of how to prepare for a multi-game series.

The Lakers showed, in Game 1, that they have an advantage in the paint when they execute correctly. Against San Antonio, you can’t simply dump the ball inside and expect to dominate. Popovich’s crew is too disciplined not to rotate, and the double-teams disrupted any plans Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol had of backing down one-on-one.

Where the Lakers need to do a be...

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