Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Game #4

The San Antonio Spurs are now 2-2 on the season after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night by a final score of 121-107. The Spurs, who were playing without LaMarcus Aldridge (left knee soreness), were able to keep the game within striking distance but the Lakers always had a response when the good guys made a run. 

Key Stretch

San Antonio’s last chance to complete a comeback came with 3:40 left in the game. The Spurs had the ball down by nine points but proceeded to turn it over. LeBron James, who was celebrating his 36th birthday today, answered with a basket and the Spurs never seriously challenged again.

Key Statistic

The biggest difference in this game was L.A.’s marksmanship from downtown. They were 14-for-26 from three-point land, led by Wesley Matthew’s 6-for-6 showing from deep. 

DeMar DeRozan

Offensively, DeRozan did well. He didn’t have much room to operate due to the Lakers length, yet he efficiently posted 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field. He had ten of San Antonio’s 23 free throw attempts and remained aggressive on offense even when whistles didn’t go his way. His passing was also a plus. Defensively, he was slow to react on numerous occasions but did help out a bit on the boards.
Grade: B+

Dejounte Murray

Murray poured in a career-high 29 points on 12-for-19 shooting from the field, including 2-for-3 on three-pointers and 3-for-3 at the line. He also tallied seven assists and seven rebounds. As the numbers suggest, Murray was highly active — with many more positive plays than negative ones. His jumper is smooth and he looks really good when going to the rim. He appears to be stronger and is more patient in the paint than he was in the past. Murray did have four turnovers and a few defensive lapses but, overall, it was an impressive evening for the 24-year-old. 
Grade: A-

Lonnie Walker IV

The good: I thought Walker’s defense was usually pretty good. He competed on that end and grabbed a few contested boards. Offensively, there was good and bad. The good: He wasn’t bashful about calling his own number, dished out a few heady passes and was effective in transition. The bad: Walker needed to be stronger when going to the rim. A few of his attempts didn’t need to be as difficult as he made them. Also, second-guessing himself caused him to miss multiple open lanes.  
Grade: C

Keldon Johnson

Johnson spent time on James defensively and did well given James’ height advantage. He didn’t back down an inch and his tenaciousness helped the Spurs survive on the glass. That said, there were times when he simply wasn’t tall enough to contest shots. Offensively, Johnson had issues finishing against L.A.’s size. The Lakers were also looking to draw charges whenever the second-year wing attacked the paint, which turned out to be an effective strategy. Teams are beginning to adjust to him so Johnson is going to show that he too is able to adjust. 
Grade: C

Jakob Poeltl

Poeltl started in place of Aldridge — and quickly found himself in foul trouble. That, unfortunately, has become a pattern. When Poeltl starts, he more often than not finds himself dealing with foul issues. The Austrian spending excess time on the bench was detrimental to San Antonio’s cause because he was actually pretty good when he was on the court. He was attentive on both ends of the court and could be counted on to be in the right position. 
Grade: C+

Rudy Gay

For the good of his teammates, it’d be helpful if Gay dialed things in a little bit. Right now, he’s looking to shoot the ball whenever he touches it. That aggression led to a few unwise shots. It also seemed to play a part in the bench never finding a rhythm. Defensively, I was actually pretty impressed with Gay. He was moving his feet better than usual, which allowed him to make a few plays on that end. 
Grade: C

Drew Eubanks

Eubanks got the minutes behind Poeltl. In the first quarter, he was an utter disaster. He was rushing things on offense, didn’t have any touch in the paint and seemingly made at least one mistake on each defensive possession. Considering that this was his first action of the season, it’s not overly surprising that he exhibited some rust. Thankfully, Eubanks got better as the game went along. He hit a pair of jumpers, defended the rim with gusto and his timing on the boards improved. Eubanks never fully got in a groove but it was good to see him recover from a horrible first period. 
Grade: C-

Patty Mills

This was a run of the mill game for Mills. He was uber aggressive on offense, which was usually a helpful trait. His passing was strong and he helped push the pace. Defensively, the Lakers consistently picked on him. Mills was able to make a few plays here and there on that end but it was mostly a struggle. 
Grade: B

Devin Vassell

Vassell knocked down a three-pointer and flashed more heady defensive instincts, particularly in transition. The rookie instantly recognizes when a teammate needs help and has the length, quick reflexes and athleticism to offer useful aid. Going forward, that looks to be the main thing the coaching staff can count on him doing when he’s inserted into a game. 
Grade: B-

Pop

Pop got ejected four minutes before halftime after a series of questionable calls. Before that, I didn’t have an issue with any of his coaching decisions. The Spurs haven’t gotten as many whistles as they’d want when attacking the basket in the last couple games so Pop getting ejected didn’t exactly come out of the blue.
Grade: B

Becky Hammon

Hammon took over once Pop got kicked out. Compared to Pop, Hammon leaned on her starters more than Pop would have if he had stayed on the sidelines. All in all, I thought she did well and had her troops playing hard throughout. 
Grade: B+

Next Up

The Spurs get a rematch against the Lakers on Friday. It’s obviously going to be difficult but San Antonio showed tonight that they can at least compete against the defending champs.