The San Antonio Spurs faced a difficult back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers, the top team in the Western Conference standings. While the Spurs were able to keep the game competitive at times, it became a laugher in the fourth quarter as the Lakers galloped to a 129-102 victory. The win improved L.A. to 38-11, while the Spurs dropped to 22-28.
Neither team came out with much energy. By the end of a low-scoring first quarter, the Lakers had a 21-19 advantage. Los Angeles started revving up in the second quarter and rolled to a double-digit lead. They kept a ten-point cushion going into halftime, 51-41.
In the third, the Lakers went up by as many as 19 points before the Spurs got going enough to cut their deficit to nine points, 81-72. Unfortunately, by the end of the third period, the Lakers had fattened their lead back to 13 points, 87-74.
Patty Mills hit a three-pointer to begin the fourth quarter to pull the Spurs within ten points. But that’s when LeBron James went nuclear. He hit five three-pointers within the next four minutes. When the fireworks stopped popping, the Lakers had a 108-87 lead with 8:31 remaining and the game was essentially over.
All in all, the Spurs didn’t play horribly. This game was more a matter of the Lakers being bigger, longer and more talented. Add in a hot shooting night from the best all-around player in NBA history and the good guys never really had a legitimate chance to compete, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.
Spurs at Lakers – Final Grades
After a stellar game against the Los Angeles Clippers, LaMarcus Aldridge came crashing down to Hollywood. In the first half against the Lakers, Aldridge was scoreless and had such a miniscule amount of energy that I questioned at times whether he was fully conscious. He showed a few signs of life after halftime but it was too little, too late. The best work Aldridge did all night was defensively against Anthony Davis — but even that wasn’t overly impressive.
Offensively, I was pleased with DeMar DeRozan. He had a couple questionable shots and was needlessly sloppy at times but in general he did what the Spurs needed him to do. When DeRozan wasn’t scoring at the rim, he was taking open shots or finding open teammates. Defensively, he was strong on the boards and was decently physical. Unfortunately, the Lakers were too athletic and too fast for DeRozan’s deceptively slow feet to hang with in any kind of open space.
Dejounte Murray wasn’t exactly good but he did okay. He kept mistakes to a minimum on both ends of the court. I wouldn’t say he ran the offense well but he was at least avoiding the stagnation that has mired his recent play. He shot well but wasn’t creating shots for teammates. Net net, it was a mixed bag.
Better. Bryn Forbes delivered from three-point land and his shot-selection was fine. He passed the rock okay, too. Defensively, while the Lakers drove over him like a worn down speed bump at times, give Forbes credit for fighting back enough to cause some turnovers. We don’t usually see that level of chutzpah from him so it’s worth a few golf claps.
That … wasn’t pretty. Trey Lyles hit a three-pointer early and that was about the extent of his positive contributions. He was extremely soft in the paint on both sides of the court. (Part of Lyles’ problem seems to be that he’s a poor leaper from a standstill position, so maybe what appears to be softness is just a lack of athleticism.) His dependable rebounding ability was nowhere to be found. Lyles didn’t provide any extras like perimeter defense or playmaking.
Where has Derrick White’s ability to score the ball gone? After a five-game stretch in which he averaged 15.0 points and 5.6 assists on 48.0% shooting from the field and 44.4% shooting on threes, White has followed that up with a five-game stretch with averages of 6.2 points and 3.2 assists on 38.7% shooting from the floor and 23.1% shooting from deep. Against the Lakers, he was inept scoring-wise and only decent passing-wise. I thought White was pretty good defensively but the Spurs desperately need more out of him on the other side of the court.
Patty Mills was forced into taking some difficult shots early on (mostly late in the shot clock) — and that appeared to get him completely out of rhythm and he was never able to recover. Mills hit only one of his eight attempts and his lack of crispness extended into other areas of his game, specifically on defense and when handling the ball.
Rudy Gay had four fouls in 16 minutes. Outside of that hacking, Gay didn’t do much other than miss shots. The one shot he made? A three-pointer he accidentally banked in. To say Gay is in a funk offensively would be an understatement. Add in his slower play on defense and it’s clear to see why Gay isn’t playing more minutes.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: Lonnie Walker IV had double figures for the first time since the win over the Boston Celtics almost a month ago. He sank both of his three-pointers and is now shooting 42.1% from three-point land on the season. Walker had a couple good drives to the hoop. The bad: Walker’s intensity on defense wasn’t there. When the LeBron James and the Lakers caught on fire from deep in the fourth quarter, a lot of that was due to Walker giving up too much room. Sure, the Spurs have always allowed James to shoot threes but Walker took that invitation to an extreme. On offense, Walker had a few plays he should have finished off but simply failed to do so.
In the last game before the NBA trade deadline, did Marco Belinelli catch the eye of a team that needs a shooter? It’s possible, as he was 4-for-5 from the field and 3-for-3 from three-point territory. If the Spurs are hoping to trade him, they have to be thrilled with tonight’s shooting display.
This is the second time this season that Jakob Poeltl has struggled mightily against the Lakers in general and Dwight Howard specifically. The Lakers are strong and athletic and Poeltl hasn’t responded well. I was also unimpressed by his defense, especially since he’s been playing so well on that end. Poeltl was pretty good on offense but this is a game he’ll quickly want to forget.
Chimezie Metu’s mobility and the lightness of his feet might be his two best tools right now.
It looks like Keldon Johnson has been lifting weights in Austin. He was already a big body when he was drafted. Now he looks even bigger.
I don’t think Pop could have pushed any magical buttons on this night. More Poeltl, less Aldridge? More Walker? Those might have helped — but probably not much to make a noticeable difference. The Spurs played decently at times this game and their defense as a whole was working pretty well until James went loco.
Up Next for the Spurs
Well, first it’s the trade deadline. With the Spurs now three games out of the playoff picture, will they become sellers? We’ll soon find out. A few hours after the trade deadline, the Spurs have a date with the Portland Trail Blazers — another challenge in this menacing Rodeo Road Trip.