The depleted, hurting Spurs did not play well Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. Turnovers, poor shooting, a 15-point first quarter, giving up a 17-0 run between the first and second quarter, and a killer Brandon Ingram performance doomed the Spurs, and a game of runs eventually turned into the older team running out of gas by the time the final buzzer had sounded.
Without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay, and Danny Green, the Spurs looked like a team in need of playmakers and quality veteran play. Unfortunately, the Baby Lakers turned a competitive game into a bad loss for San Antonio, and it was again reiterated that the Spurs are not elite without a healthy roster.
The night wasn’t all bad: Bryn Forbes continued to admirably fill in for Green in the starting lineup, and made half of the Spurs’ eight 3s. He struggled on defense when switched onto the much taller Ingram [as did everybody,] but he provided an offensive spark that kept the team in the game, and confidently stepped into 3s, took defenders off the dribble for jumpers, and hustled back on defense when a fast break broke out.
LaMarcus Aldridge had it going early and had some nice reads out of the double-teams that were the offense’s ultimate undoing. Despite shooting just 6-15 from the floor, Aldridge looked to be nearly unstoppable down low early and probably could have continued to dominate down low had other Spurs contributed earlier on in the game.
Dejounte Murray’s energy on both ends of the floor and ability to keep up with an athletic Lakers squad was encouraging. In 26 minutes, he put up a stat-stuffing line of 14-11-5-3-1, and played a controlled game as the starting point guard.
In fact, despite just about everyone else struggling in the game, Forbes, Aldridge, and Murray all looked ready to hoop Thursday night, and save for some timely turnovers and big shots from the Lakers down the stretch, it looked like the trio’s work would have been good enough to pull out a win.
I suppose the bad would be good to cover as well, so let’s jump into it. Offensively, the Spurs often looked like a team stretched just a little too thin. And to be fair, even in a “blah” effort, they absolutely were stretched too thin.
Patty Mills had one of the least impactful games he has had in some time, and he’s prone to bad games when his shot is not falling. As an undersized guard without elite athleticism or playmaking skills, his value often dwindles when he is relied upon heavily but unable to hit 3s or his patented pullup jumpers.
Manu Ginobili had some nice drives to the hoop and continued his hot streak from 3, but it was a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde game from Manu. The Lakers picked off his wildest passes, he isn’t big enough to really give Ingram trouble on defense, and he wasn’t able to impact the game outside of scoring.
Pau Gasol and Aldridge had some really nice tic-tac-toe passing and finishing at times, but Pau’s return to Staples Center was a tough one. When tasked with defending Larry Nance Jr. in space, Pau struggled to do much with the hyper-athletic big man, and ultimately was unable to provide help defensively without giving up an open dunk.
Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Brandon Paul mostly blended into the game and were unremarkable and Joffrey Lauvergne registered a DNP-Coach’s decision, but Derrick White did hit his first 3-pointer, and that has to be a nice feeling for the young fella. Perhaps this could be a launching pad for him to feel a little more comfortable out there on offense.
Much like the loss against the Sixers on January 3rd, the Spurs could have potentially won the game through simple, intelligent basketball, but couldn’t sustain the play for long stretches of time. When pressed to execute on both ends of the floor after two, three, four, five, or six actions, young teams often fade and crumble under the pressure. While the Lakers made big plays down the stretch, they were vulnerable to this very sort of run, but the Spurs couldn’t put it together.
To open the second half, the Spurs went on a 9-1 run and caused four turnovers in the first six-and-a-half minutes, and it was largely due to consistent, intelligent basketball. The ball movement resulted in great looks that were converted for points, the Lakers fell apart on offense, and it looked like a switch had been flipped.
However, this Spurs team is not comprised of wily veterans at every position at the moment, and consistently playing intelligent basketball becomes a lot more difficult when four of the top eight rotation guys are out. Turnovers can often be the result of good defense, but more often this year, the Spurs have watched players stretch themselves as playmakers and cough the ball up. There will be bumps along the way.
The Lakers are young, inexperienced, often undisciplined, and wildly inconsistent, but for a night, they had the crowd rocking and the Spurs sweating it out. Without their very best in uniform, the Spurs are vulnerable to aggressive defenses and poor shooting nights, and tonight they were on the wrong end of an ugly loss. As always, on to the next one.
- Davis Bertans somehow stopped a three-on-one fast break and survived a near-poster by Larry Nance Jr. Maybe he’s been taking notes from Danny Green.
- The Lakers uniforms look more yellow than they ever have, and the jerseys that I hate to look at the most somehow became worse.
- Dejounte Murray vs. Lonzo Ball is not the most publicized matchup, but that might be a sneaky-great one moving forward. Both are incredibly quick, great rebounders, tall, and not very good at shooting just yet.
- Pau Gasol’s passing to LaMarcus from the 3-point line are becoming damn circus acts. Their chemistry is outstanding, and Gasol’s ability to put the ball in a place that only LA can get to is such a joy to watch.