Without a doubt, Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson are arguably two of the top three coaches of all time. They have mastered the game in terms of the game plan, depth charts, and timely substitutions leading to multiple NBA championships. Combined, they have amassed 16 NBA titles.
But both coaches are often compared and contrasted, with huge arguments for both.
Arguments in the Popovich camp will say that Phill coached Top 10 All-Time players in Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant. Arguments against Pop will mention how he had consistency in his big three of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili only to lose some Finals that they should have won. Either way, this will be a cracking match with some great players performing at their best.
The game will ultimately come down to timely buckets by superstar players, and a small run at the end of the game. Here is how it plays out.
Point Guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Parker
Kobe will take turns bringing the ball up at times, although Pippen will be the one to play point most of the time. But Bryant will find great success against the Spurs two guards thanks to his skill and ability to score. He will drop nearly 30 points and be clutch when it matters most in this game.
Meanwhile, Parker will do a masterful job of pushing the pace and finding guys for easy shots. He will also finish in the lane and do what he does best: floaters. Parker will continue to put pressure on the defense and will be coached tremendously by Gregg Popovich who will put him in the best position to succeed. But Kobe will be the best man in this matchup and will just take over down the stretch.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan vs. Manu Ginobili
MJ will be the main man on the floor and be very efficient with his scoring. He will attract a lot of attention, so he will control the pace of the game as much as possible. MJ will do MJ and hit the final big buckets down the stretch to push the lead for Jackson's team. He will also be a force on defense, deflecting passes and making life difficult for Manu. Jordan will effectively control the pace of the game is an excellent all-around effort.
Manu will have his hands full with Kobe and Jordan, but he will be a non-stop battery all game long with his hustle and playmaking. Manu will attack the basket and put pressure on the defense as much as possible while giving Duncan and Robinson space to operate. He will try as much as possible to follow Pop's game plan without overdribbling or losing the ball much.
Small Forward: Scottie Pippen vs. Kawhi Leonard
Pippen and Leonard will be tasked with playing defense, remaining efficient, and doing what they do best. Pippen will be the main ball handler for the team, allowing Kobe and MJ to run off screens and get the ball in the best positions to operate. He will also be tasked with defending Manu, Leonard, and even Parker at times when they switch on the pick n roll.
On the other hand, Leonard will be the man tasked with defending Jordan very tightly. At times, he will have to defend Bryant when he starts heating up. Leonard will not have an easy night and will be the player to expend the most energy on the court. He will also hit long-range shots and keep the game close all night long. Overall, both forwards will produce on both ends of the floor and make their impact known to all the fans watching.
Power Forward: Karl Malone vs. Tim Duncan
Possibly the most even matchup will be between Malone and Duncan. Even though Malone was way past his prime when he played for the Lakers, he was a beast in his prime and a top three-point scorer of all time. His mid-range game will prove to be a major problem for Team Pop, as he will force Duncan to leave the paint and contest shots all game long. He will even finish inside a few times, but will not be as efficient as he would like.
Duncan will bother Malone and Shaq all night long, using his genius on the defensive end to contest shots that should be rather easy for Shaq especially. He will foul when he needs to, and provide backup for Robinson. He will also lead the Team Pop in scoring thanks to the pick n pop with Parker.
Center: Shaquille O'Neal vs. David Robinson
Finally, the center position. Shaq will be a beast, as expected, and will attract the most attention inside. Robinson will try as much as possible to get Shaq in foul trouble by attacking him off the dribble and also trying to finish any offensive rebounds he gets. While Shaq is a more dominant player, he will be minimized by the duo of Robinson and Duncan down low. Robinson will do a good enough job to bother him as much as possible although Shaq will still get his 20-10.
Robinson will be in foul trouble as the game goes on, but his energy and offensive prowess will give Team Pop some lifeline in the third quarter once they begin to pull away.
This will be a close game, mostly thanks to the Spurs defense. They will bother Team Zen all night long, and limit Shaq's effectiveness from the start. Head coach Pop will definitely hack Shaq multiple times throughout the game, and force him to make free throws. Otherwise, Shaq will be double teamed in the paint and other guys will be forced to beat them. The Lakers will respond, with Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan being the main men in this game.
Historically, Kobe has found success against the Spurs and it won't be much different this time around. Not to mention, Jordan plays best when the pressure is on. MJ will find great success no matter who is guarding him in this game. Kobe and Jordan will combine for 54 points and hit timely buckets to push Team Zen over the top.
For the Spurs, Duncan will be the main man inside while Parker and Ginobili will make it tough for the opposition. While they are not as big or talented, they are very crafty guards who will feed off of Duncan and also penetrate the lane leading to easy buckets for Robinson. Kawhi Leonard, for the majority of the game, will be tasked with slowing down Kobe and MJ all night long. He will succeed to a certain point, keeping their FG% to the lower 40's. He will also be tasked with a key three-pointer to tie the game at 100. Unfortunately for Team Pop, this will be their last bucket as Kobe and MJ will take over down the stretch.
Team Zen Master vs. Team Gregg Popovich 113-103