The San Antonio Spurs dropped to 4-2 on the season after a 103-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Alamo City. With the win, the Lakers are now 5-1 and in first place in the Western Conference.
The Spurs started off slowly, falling behind 18-11 in the game’s first seven minutes. That’s when San Antonio’s bench entered and stabilized things for the home team. By the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were up by one point, 26-25.
In the second quarter, both teams traded body punches for the first nine and a half minutes of the period. Unfortunately, with around two minutes remaining in the half, the Lakers caught fire, the Spurs went cold and the result was a 10-0 L.A. run to close out the second. At intermission, the Spurs trailed 56-43.
Things continued to go south in the beginning of the second half. At the 8:36 mark of the third period, the Lakers had a 19-point lead, 66-47. Following a timeout by Pop, the Spurs responded with a 12-2 blitz over the span of 90 seconds to claw their way back into the game. A three-point heave by Rudy Gay from about 40 feet at the end of the quarter brought the Spurs within five points, 77-72.
In the final stanza, the Spurs were down by seven points when Dejounte Murray decided to put the team on his back. The young point guard scored 14 straight points for the Spurs, which allowed San Antonio to complete their comeback as they tied the game at 90-90 with four minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, that’s when things fell apart for the good guys. After fumbling a defensive rebound out of bounds, the Lakers got a buzzer-beating jumper by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who then followed it up with a three-pointer on the next possession. A Dwight Howard dunk on the subsequent Lakers trip up the court put Los Angeles up by seven points and the Spurs never seriously threatened again.
Overall, I think you could look at this game one of two ways as a Spurs fan. The glass half full view is Lakers had LeBron James go for 21 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, Anthony Davis post 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Howard, Caldwell-Pope and Avery Bradley combine for 44 points on 19-for-25 shooting from the field, while LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 7-for-24 from the field, and hired guns Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli shot a combined 6-for-23 from the field and 2-for-14 on three-pointers — and yet, through all that, the Spurs still somehow managed to knot the game late. Add in two blown goaltending calls that both went the Lakers way and it’s pretty darn impressive that this one was even as close as it was.
The glass half empty view is that the Lakers just looked like the much more talented team with painfully obvious physical advantages up and down the roster. The game was only close because the Lakers are still a work in progress but once they get it together, there’s simply no way for the Spurs to compete.
I lean more toward the former than the latter. As the season progresses, we’ll see what this Spurs team is made out of but for now, this game wasn’t cause for concern in and of itself. San Antonio almost stole a game they had no business of winning, as the Lakers dominated the action for much of the night. On to Tuesday’s game in Atlanta.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Final Grades
Not a good night at the office for LaMarcus Aldridge. Defensively, he had a couple quick-handed slap-aways and a few other possessions where his fast reflexes caused problems for the Lakers but otherwise he wasn’t of much help on that end. The Lakers got easy shots by involving Aldridge in picks that caused switches and mismatches. Rebounding more forcefully would have also helped. Offensively, Aldridge was largely a nonfactor. While it’s true he didn’t get many touches, it appears as if the length of the Lakers gave Aldridge trouble. He usually had to resort to difficult shots and couldn’t find anything close to a rhythm. The Spurs need Aldridge to play well to beat good teams and so far he’s 0-for-2 in that regard this season.
When DeMar DeRozan goes against LeBron James, it’s like he’s looking in the mirror. Well, except for the fact that the man DeRozan sees in the reflection is about ten times better at everything that has to do with the sport he plays for a living. DeRozan had to defend James a whole lot and it was a hopeless cause. Due mostly to switches, DeRozan also had to defend Anthony Davis quite a bit too. That might have been even more of a lost cause. On offense, he had some positive moments when he was actively making plays, find teammates or taking it hard to the rim. Otherwise, it was a struggle for DeRozan, who scored only 14 points on 15 shots. I didn’t like how he played angry for much of the contest. Some players are better when they’re mad, while DeRozan is decidedly worse when he’s in the throws of a game-long tantrum.
Dejounte Murray wasn’t doing a whole lot other than rebounding until he scored 14 consecutive points for the Spurs in the fourth quarter. However, that one stretch was enough to provide a game’s worth of highlights. From knocking down a three-pointer to crafty forays to the rim featuring long strides and awkward angles, Murray looked like a man on a mission. He was also playing great defense during that stretch, as well. Overall, though, Murray still has work to do in terms of cutting down on his mistakes and being more consistent. The talent is obviously there; he’s become an even better defender and rebounder, and he has vast upside when it comes to scoring and passing. If Murray can put it all together, he’s going to be scary. We saw a glimpse of that potential in the fourth quarter against the Lakers.
I thought Bryn Forbes’ defense was better than usual. He was coming up with loose balls and even forced a couple turnovers. He needs a lot of work to become even average defensively; this game was a small step in the right direction. Offensively, Forbes just didn’t have it. He got a lot of open shots but hit only one of his eight three-pointers. To his credit, it seemed like he had five or six shots barely rattled out — but that’s not much of a legitimate excuse. On the season, Forbes is shooting 40.8% from the field and 35.7% on three-pointers. Factoring in his limitations, those percentages just won’t cut it. He has to shoot better to retain his value.
Hallelujah. Trey Lyles finally hit a shot from outside of the paint while wearing Silver and Black. That’s the first time all season, dating back to the preseason. The glorious occasion took place in the third quarter when he hit a 17-footer on a feed from Murray. Outside of that shot, Lyles didn’t do much to help the Spurs other than run the court hard and provide a decent amount of activity. He didn’t do good work on the boards, didn’t do any playmaking or passing, didn’t spread the floor and didn’t defend notably well. Lyles wasn’t a glaring liability either, to be fair, but how much longer can the Spurs start a player who so frequently doesn’t move the needle?Grade: C+
Rudy Gay is beginning to look like the Rudy Gay of the last two seasons — and that’s great news. He looked lethargic in the preseason and the first few games of the regular season but now he looks fine. Let’s hope it continues. Against the Lakers, he provided a valuable scoring punch off the bench. He’s being aggressive when hunting three-point opportunities, he’s pulling down contested boards and he’s making quick, smart passes. I also thought his defense tonight was really good, relatively speaking. He went out on the perimeter and defended much better than usual. That said, I did think he held onto the ball too much at times. Gay doesn’t need to break the offense as much as he did against Los Angeles. More often than not, Gay breaking the offense leads to either a turnover or a very difficult shot.
This was a rock solid game by Derrick White. Defensively, it was his best game of the year. He was all over the place and could usually be found making brilliant plays. From timely double-teams to taking a pair of charges by guessing the path of hard-charging Lakers, White was playing big brain basketball. Offensively, he did pretty well too. He took quality shots, made a few plays, craftily drew contact and pushed the pace better than usual. White could have upped his overall aggression a notch or two but otherwise I was happy with how he played.
Welp, Manu Ginobili warned us about regression to the mean. After Patty Mills scored more points last game than he had in nearly five years, he was in full-on regression mode against the Lakers. He couldn’t do much of anything right. On defense, the Lakers repeatedly picked on him and he compounded the issue with some boneheaded fouls. On offense, when he wasn’t missing a shot, he was kicking the ball out of bounds. His effort was there, Mills just didn’t play well at all.
At first, I was impressed with Jakob Poeltl defensively. He was making plays all over the court. He defended the rim well early on and was even able to get a hand up out on the perimeter. But as the game progressed, I became less and less and less impressed. Offensively, he hung his teammates out to dry by timidly rolling to the basket after setting screens. Sometimes he would start to roll, inexplicably stop and then watch as his teammate threw the ball to a Laker. (I don’t understand why Poeltl is having so much trouble rolling correctly this year. Last year, he was rolling fine.) Poeltl going without an offensive rebound didn’t help matters, especially as that’s his main strength as a basketball player. Even his defense went downhill in the second half, particularly when Dwight Howard was involved in the play.
Marco Belinelli was the 11th Spur to play tonight but still got 15 minutes of action. Unfortunately, it was more of the same out of the Italian: missed shots and bad defense. It’s obviously still too early to completely give up on him as a shooter but his shots don’t even look that close right now. They’re all flat and his ability to create separation appears to be notable degraded compared to even last season.
DeMarre Carroll was the first small forward off the bench and played decently well in his five minutes of action. He ran the court, had a good pass and competed defensively. He’s still learning where to be but Carroll gives the Spurs a lift in terms of grit and fiber when he’s on the court. We’ll see if that’s enough to earn him more minutes going forward.
While Pop shouldn’t take complete blame for the loss, his decisions left me scratching my head. Playing DeRozan at power forward is suicidal against the extra long Lakers yet Pop went to that at times. Carroll appeared to give the Spurs a boost but then Pop went back to Belinelli. In theory, playing Carroll at small forward might be the only real way to combat L.A.’s length advantage — but Pop didn’t see it that way, I guess. Facing such a talent disparity, you’d think Pop would consider playing Murray and White together — but no. Apparently playing two of his top four talents at the same time isn’t on his notecards. I did like that Pop gave Murray a couple extra minutes in the fourth, even though I was holding by breath after it was obvious that Murray was tiring.