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Lakers battle Spurs NBA Game of Day

SAN ANTONIO SPURS (58-21) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (43-37) Line & Total: San Antonio -5 & 197

The Lakers begin life without Kobe Bryant on Sunday when the mighty Spurs pay a visit to Staples Center.

L.A.'s superstar shooting guard tore his Achilles in Friday's 118-116 win over Golden State and will be out 6-to-9 months. But despite the devastating injury, the Lakers have been playing outstanding basketball recently with six wins in their past seven games. That has put them one game ahead of Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with just two games left in the regular season for both clubs. The Spurs are also looking to improve their playoff positioning, as they trail Oklahoma City by just one-half game for the top spot in the conference. They haven't finished the season strong though, losing four of their past seven games outright and tallying a horrific 3-12 ATS mark over the past 15 contests. Both meetings this season have been close wins for San Antonio (84-82 and 108-105), making this series 10-10 SU in the past 20 meetings, with the Lakers holding a slight 11-9 ATS advantage. However, after losing seven straight trips to L.A., the Spurs are 4-1 SU (5-0 ATS) in their past five visits to Staples Center.

San Antonio has been a decent road team this season at 23-16 SU and 20-19 ATS, but the club has lost five straight games away from home, averaging just 88.4 PPG on 41% FG and 34% threes. These numbers are much worse than what the Spurs usually score on the road (101.7 PPG on 47% FG and 37% threes) and overall, where they have 103.3 PPG (4th in NBA), 48.4% FG (2nd in league) and 37.7% threes (4th in NBA). Defensively, they are also pretty strong, giving up only 96.3 PPG (9th in NBA) on 44.2% FG (8th in league) and 35.1% threes (11th in NBA). The team continues to be led by PG Tony Parker (20.7 PPG, 7.5 APG) and PF Tim Duncan (17.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG). Parker had missed two straight games with an ankle injury before coming up big in Friday's 108-101 win over Sacramento with 22 points (9-of-13 FG) and 10 assists. Parker has also played well against the Lakers this season with 21.5 PPG (53% FG) and 6.5 APG in two meetings. Duncan has not been as effective against the great size of the Lakers with a mere 13.0 PPG (41% FG), 8.0 RPG and 4.5 APG against them this season. But he's been on a roll in the past four games with 22.5 PPG (49% FG), 8.5 RPG and 3.3 BPG. SF Kawhi Leonard (12.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) has also been great in his past four games with 17.5 PPG (52% FG) and 9.5 RPG. He's averaged 9.0 PPG (54% FG), but just 3.5 RPG versus the Lakers this season. With SG Manu Ginobili (11.9 PPG, 4.6 APG) out with a hamstring injury, SG Danny Green (10.6 PPG) and PG Gary Neal (9.1 PPPG) have been providing more offense. In the past two games, Green has 11.0 PPG on 9-of-17 FG, while Neal has 13.5 PPG on 10-of-23 shooting. C Tiago Splitter (10.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG) had a huge effort on Friday with 12 points, 12 boards, six assists, three blocks and two steals, and has also battled hard inside with the Lakers big men this season, tallying 11.5 PPG and 11.5 RPG in the two meetings.

Los Angeles continues to thrive on offense with 102.4 PPG (6th in NBA) on 46.0% FG (8th in league), but a mediocre 35.6% threes (19th in NBA). The Lakers remain strong on the boards (+1.9 RPG margin, 11th in NBA), but the defense has surrendered 102.9 PPG on 46% FG and 37% threes over the past 11 games and 101.3 PPG this season (7th-worst in NBA). However, the club certainly has the ability to defend, allowing a mere 1.16 Points Per Shot (4th-best in league). With Bryant out, the team will likely try to feed the post more with C Dwight Howard (16.9 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.42 BPG) and PF Pau Gasol (13.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.0 APG) anchoring the lane. Howard has made 16-of-19 FG (84.2%) in his past two games, and is averaging 23.0 PPG, but just 6.8 RPG -- well below his league-best 12.3 RPG -- in the past four contests. Howard has faced the Spurs just once this season, scoring 13 points and pulling down 15 boards in the Nov. 13 home loss. Gasol has been phenomenal during his team's three-game win streak, averaging 23.7 PPG on 67.4% FG with 9.7 RPG and 7.7 APG. He went for 10 points, 10 boards and five assists in the lone meeting with San Antonio this season. SF Metta World Peace (12.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG) will need to find his offense as he continues to recover from knee surgery. In three games since returning, he's averaged just 5.0 PPG (39% FG) in 17.7 MPG. World Peace has dropped 17.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG versus the Spurs this season. PG Steve Nash (12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG) has missed six straight games with a hamstring injury and is doubtful for this contest as well. PG Steve Blake (6.5 PPG, 3.7 APG) has played a ton of minutes in Nash's absence, logging 37.4 MPG in the past seven games. He has scored 9.9 PPG on 47% FG and 45% threes with 4.6 RPG and 3.1 APG over this stretch.

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