The San Antonio Spurs were finally able to get over the purple and gold hump. After two close yet unsuccessful battles against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs were able to hold on for a 118-109 victory on Thursday night. This was the third time the Spurs faced the Lakers in five games.
Much like last game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Spurs got up big, let their lead slip away but then came roaring back with another run in the fourth quarter. However, unlike the Clippers game, San Antonio didn’t need sweat out the final seconds against the Lakers, as they were able to keep control of the game down the stretch.
The Lakers, who never led in this game, tied the contest with a minute remaining in the third. Instead of being depressed about blowing their lead, the Spurs responded with a 16-6 run over the next three and a half minutes to rebuild a double-digit advantage. From then on, L.A. never got within eight points.
The Spurs were 20-for-40 on three-pointers against the Clippers. Their Southern California hot streak from beyond the three-point stripe continued with a 16-of-35 showing from deep versus the Lakers.
Spurs at Lakers: Final Grades
DeRozan missed a few easy shots but I thought he was quietly really good. He was 2-for-6 on threes — and it’s always a plus when he’s launching long balls. He accounted for nearly half of San Antonio’s free throw attempts. He led the Spurs with eight assists — and did so without turning the ball over. On defense, DeRozan remained focused. All in all, I liked his decisions and the patience with which he played.
I thought Murray was rock solid, particularly in the fourth quarter. In the closing stretch, he was getting the team into their sets quickly, picking his spots well, using his length to be disruptive on defense and was corralling key caroms. Throughout the game, Murray’s moves to create space were slick and, like DeRozan, he finished the game without a turnover.
After a forgettable preseason and a slow start to his regular season, Aldridge had by far his best game of the season. His jumper looked really good — even when he moved to the three-point line. He got a few shots to go early and that seemed to spark his confidence and he remained a weapon in pick-and-pop sets. I also thought he made smart decisions passing-wise. Defensively, I was really impressed with his transition defense. He obviously made it a point to retreat quickly to defend the paint and that strategy paid dividends throughout.
Offensively, it was a really tough game for Johnson. On the first possession, he clanged a dunk off the back rim — and that was pretty much the story of his night on offense. He was able to create openings but his touch betrayed him. The good news regarding Johnson’s play was on the other end. He was the primary defender against LeBron James and he can be proud about what he accomplished. Johnson stayed in front of James and forced him to work virtually every possession. The second-year player was physical while avoiding fouls, which isn’t easy to do against the best player in the league.
Lonnie Walker IV
I was mostly pleased with how Walker played. I thought he had some defensive possessions where he was going through the motions and lacked the necessary amount of physicality but the rest of his night at the office was an encouraging one. Offensively, I loved the aggression he played with, especially when he confidently searched out opportunities to launch his jumper. He also flashed some playmaking ability, which helped lubricate the offense when things got rigid.
While Mills only hit one three-pointer this game (it was actually his first game of the season without at least two made threes), I thought this was another strong, strong effort by the Oceania native. His passing and playmaking were excellent. The Lakers played strong defense at times but Mills was able to rise to the occasion when times got hectic by creating for his teammates off the dribble, off the move and in transition. Defensively, he didn’t hesitate to get his hands dirty.
This might have been the first game of the season in which Gay found the right balance on offense. Previously, he was either shooting too much or overthinking things and holding onto the ball for too long. Against the Lakers on Thursday night, he was decisive with his actions. It also helped that his jumper was finding net. Defensively, Gay was moving his feet better than usual and was competing each time up the court. He was able to defend James surprisingly well at times.
The good: Poeltl ran the court hard both ways. His perimeter defense was really good and his switches were timely. He wasn’t bashful about passing from the high-post. The bad: Poeltl could have been sturdier in the paint. When the Lakers got physical with him, he rarely responded well. He could have also been stronger on the defensive glass. On offense, he uncharacteristically had trouble catching passes and wasn’t always staying alert on his rolls to the rim.
I was impressed with Vassell’s defense. He had a few genius-level rotations. For a rookie, his instincts with regard to knowing what the opposing offense is trying to do is shockingly good. A number of times, he read what the Lakers were trying to do a few seconds ahead and was ready to interrupt passing lanes, cover shooters, box out bigs or whatever the situation called for. Offensively, he knocked down his first two three-pointers. His stroke looks really good right now and his high release is allowing him to fire away even if he’s guarded.
I liked what Pop did with the rotation. Even though Aldridge had the hot hand, I thought it was smart to allow him to get long rests and avoid force-feeding him. Pop might have leaned on his vets a little bit too much with the big picture in mind but they were all playing well, so I wasn’t too upset he went with the oldies down the stretch. The Spurs were executing their gameplan well on both ends, so Pop probably deserves some amount of credit for that.
The Spurs couldn’t be any happier with how their five-game road trip has started. Next up, the good guys have a back-to-back against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and Sunday. To keep the momentum, the Spurs will at least want a split over the weekend.