Here is a matchup breakdown brough to you by Insider
Point guard: L.A. will start Payton, who loves to push the ball ahead quickly in transition before setting up the triangle offense. He still is very dangerous on the left side of the floor in transition when isolated and loves that mid-post area against smaller players, like Parker. He makes good decisions coming off screens with the ball and almost always finds the open man.
Fisher will back him up and also play with Payton. Fisher has been a playoff starter, so this will be nothing new to him. Trust me -- he will be in there late to guard Parker. Kobe also will play some point. Of course, with Phil Jackson's triangle offense, there is no true point guard. It's considered a two-guard front, so the primary ball-handling responsibilities are shared.
San Antonio counters with Parker. There isn't a quicker, more accomplished young point guard in the NBA right now. Parker was tremendous against Memphis, outplaying Jason Williams. He has played in big playoff games with success, amazing since he won't turn 22 until May 17. He can get his own shot with his penetration, knock down shots, and is unselfish. He has to be huge if San Antonio is to win.
His backup, Jason Hart, hit his head on the floor against Memphis but is OK. He is a very good defender and an underrated shooter. He will have to prove it, because L.A. will leave him to double elsewhere. That is why Ginobili will play the point some. Charlie Ward won't see much action.
Off guard: Kobe had 31 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds after his three-day stint in Eagle, Colo. He might have to miss a game in this series for his May 10 court date, and it could be critical if he does. Kobe only shot 34 percent in the Houston series but made them when it counted. He will do the same in this series. No one is more accomplished on the perimeter at both ends of the floor.
His backup, Kareem Rush, shot the ball very well coming off the bench against Houston. Jackson is playing him more and more.
San Antonio starts all-defensive first-teamer Bruce Bowen, who has had success getting into Kobe's body and playing physical with him. He will not worry too much about helping out on other people, as his eyes will be glued to Kobe's chest. He is an excellent 3-point shooter but a poor FT shooter. Go figure. This matchup will be heated with trash talking before the series gets very far. Ginobili or Turkoglu play there, as well, in the Spurs' rotation.
Small forward: Devean George now starts for the Lakers, as Rick Fox has been slowed by nagging injuries. George is capable of having big scoring nights and will get open shots all series, because his man will be helping on everyone else. Fox has been slow laterally in keeping people in front of him defensively, but obviously he has been through all of this before. Bryon Russell won't get to play much unless there are foul problems or an injury.
The Spurs start Turkoglu. I like the way he plays and has become accustomed to his new style of play and role now after coming over from Sacramento. He can make the 3-point shot, hitting 41.9 percent from distance on the season, compared to 40.6 overall. Ginobili came in third in the balloting for sixth-man of the year. He will play any one of three positions on the floor. If he gets the first step on you when he drives to his left, he is gone. Manu is the Spurs third-best player.
Power forward: Malone will stop at nothing to win this series any way he can. His intensity in the Houston series left a mark with his teammates. He will have to continue to put up big numbers, and he should get plenty of open jump shots because of the help that Shaq requires. As in years past, he would just as soon make a great assist as score himself. He is all about winning. The problem is, he is going to have to guard possibly the best player in the NBA in Duncan.
Stansilav Medvenenko is a more than capable backup at both inside positions. Luke Walton will need to play better in his short minutes than he did against Houston. He is a clutch player who is all about winning.
San Antonio's Duncan owns a bank shot from outside either block that is prettier and softer than anyone's. He will have to make important free throws, and he has struggled with this. That is his only weak link.
Backup Malik Rose is the banger off the bench who can put up quick points because he is relentless inside. He has been up and down but has played well in long stretches. Robert Horry will be on the floor for extended minutes including at the end of games. This will be quite interesting, as he has five championship rings, three with the Lakers. He just continues to knock down big time shots. He likely will have to live up to his reputation as "Mr. April, May, and June."
Advantage: Spurs, because the have both Duncan and Horry. You have to root for Malone, though.
Center: This will be a mismatch, as it usually is when the Lakers play. L.A., of course, starts O'Neal. His defense improved against Houston and Yao in the first-round series. Shaq has shown he can get out on those screens when he wants to and is not tired. He will have to be committed to defending in all areas in this series, as his man will come over to set multiple screens late in the shot clock or pin-down for a shooter coming out for a shot. You have to foul him when he gets the ball deep, or he scores every time. He must make his share of free throws for the Lakers to win.
Medvenenko has a big body and can make the face-up shot, and rookie Brian Cook will play some as well. Malone will slide over if needed, though, when the Lakers go small.
The Spurs' Nesterovic has done a good job starting at center. His numbers are equivalent to David Robinson's at the end of Robinson's career. He is a good rebounder and can finish inside. However, Nesterovic has struggled guarding Shaq in the past due to Shaq's brute strength, and he'll need help. Willis will get a chanceto play some, and he can score from the left block. Rose looks like a midget against Shaq but has done reasonably well at times. In the fourth quarter though, Duncan will slide over and take Shaq outside.