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What we learned from the Spurs overtime thriller against the Lakers

San Antonio needed an extra frame to finish off Los Angeles, but it was quite a show.

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

At the end of regulation, the score of this game was 128-128. That’s insanity. I know all signs point towards this being the way the league is trending right now but, still. Holy smokes, that’s so many points.

The San Antonio Spurs are going to need to score like this all season because, as we’ve repeated ad nauseam, the defensive side of things isn’t likely to be this squad’s strong suit, and tonight’s performance just added more evidence to the pile. The effort wasn’t even really that bad overall! The Lakers have a bunch of young, athletic, and extremely capable scorers, and they also have some kid from Akron. At the end of the day, you can only paint with the colors you have, and the Spurs’ palette is full of undersized guards, aging big men, and Marco Belinellis. Those are the facts, and they aren’t changing anytime soon.

This game saw the Spurs vacillate between moments of truly thrilling basketball and plays where they appeared to awkwardly bump up against the ceiling of their own limitations. It’s starting to feel like this might be a template we all need to get used to.

We are now three games into the season. Are we having fun yet?


  • I am as infatuated with DeMar DeRozan’s ability to score as much as the next guy, but the final two possessions of regulation were a harsh reality check on what happens when the offense relies too much on him to simply make something happen. In fact, that’s probably too positive a spin on it. Those two possessions were brutal. After standing around a bit to milk the clock, he double-clutched a jumper, bailed on it, and then handed it off to Bryn Forbes who rushed a three. With two seconds left, the best shot we could get was another hurried three from DeRozan that went off the backboard. This needs to not be the plan ever.
  • Those plays were especially infuriating considering how devastating LaMarcus Aldridge had been in the 2nd half. Wave after wave of Laker defenders kept bouncing off him, and he continued to get whatever he wanted. They even had LeBron James guarding him for a portion of the 4th. Aldridge finished with 37 points on the night — one of the best offensive performances we’ve seen from him as a Spur.
  • I felt for DeRozan down the stretch, but he kind of lost the juice there at the end. Early on, he looked like he normally does. Direct lines to the basket, crisp spin moves into the lane, quick release on his shots. He started out hitting his first five shots and, as a result, the offense sprang to life around him during that 40 point outburst in the 1st. The end of the game was another story. His jumpers felt forced and that innate ability he has to find open guys deserted him. I lost track in OT how many times he seemed to just take the ball, aimlessly drive to the basket and hope for something good to happen. I don’t know if this is a habit left over from his Toronto Raptors days but hopefully it’s something the coaching staff can ween him off of. You don’t have to do it all yourself, DeMar. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault!
  • LeBron James had what felt like a sleepy game for the most part, but boy did he wake up for the end. It was like watching the Terminator come online. I really thought the Spurs did an okay job on him, but it always seemed like he was lurking on the margins, just waiting to take over. Rudy Gay and Dante Cunningham did about as well as could be expected, but they were by no means shutting him down or anything. He deferred in the first half, and increasingly asserted himself as the game wore on.
  • The Lakers were particularly devastating in transition tonight. Granted, with James running the show and all the athletes they have on their roster, transition will be an advantage against almost anyone they play. But it really stood out against the Spurs. When San Antonio was in control, everything slowed down and it forced the Lakers to hang out in the half court and think about what they were doing, but every time the Spurs turned the ball over, it felt like all of Los Angeles came alive. Bodies were flying down the court, and guys were falling all over themselves to make a no-look touch pass or finish things off with a dunk. LeBron James’ teams being great on the break is definitely not something we “learned” tonight, but it was very interesting to watch the young guys on the Lakers adapting to that style.
  • Bryn Forbes was very good in this game. He shot the ball extremely well and, honestly, the effort he has put in defensively this year is far better than anything we’ve seen from him thus far. He may not be great, but he looks as though he could keep improving. It’s always going to be easy to watch him and think about all the ways in which he’s not Dejounte Murray, but that does a disservice to what he brings to the table every night and it’s certainly not going heal Murray’s ACL any faster. If he continues to perform like this regularly, the Spurs are going to be just fine as they wait for guys to get healthy.
  • I was planning to spend some serious real estate going into GREAT detail about how frustrating it can be to watch Patty Mills play defense, but then he hit a game winning shot and I sort of lost track of that train of thought. Time for that another day, I suppose.
  • (Nice shot though. Love you, mate.)