The last time the Spurs met the Lakers, it was a 143-142 classic where nobody could stop anyone, but if that game was a track meet, this one was more like a wrestling match. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge did their usual yeoman work in carrying the scoring load for the Spurs, but Pau Gasol made some key plays late in the third quarter and at the end of the game to seal it for the Silver and Black. The Spurs made the key stops when it mattered, but a late run from the Lakers made it a tense finish for the good guys until DeRozan and Gasol put the game away in the final seconds.
JaVale McGee started off the game with a turnover for the Lakers, but after a missed shot from Bryn Forbes, Kyle Kuzma picked up where he left off on Monday, hitting a three point shot from the elbow. Aldridge scored for the Spurs, but Kyle Kuzma kept up the heat, along with LeBron James, as the Lakers rushed out to a quick 8-2 lead. But LMA used his body to get into the chest of McGee and was able to score easily inside against him. The good guys evened the score at 12 each with 7 minutes left in the first, leading to a quick Luke Walton timeout. Both teams rolled out their bench, with a few starters, and the play was a little more ragged, but LeBron stayed on the court and was able to penetrate to the basket. Aldridge and Rozan kept the Spurs in it, with an assist from Rudy Gay to tie the game at 21. Then the Lakers hit threes from Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo, and eventually went on a 10-0 run. The Spurs were able to fight back a bit, but a buzzer beater from Lance Stephenson had the Lakers leading 36-29 after the first 12 minutes.
DeMar scored the first points on the second quarter with a pretty up-and-under. The Spurs offense was good enough, but they gave opportunities to the Lakers with turnovers, and they easily cashed in, gaining a 48-35 lead on a McGee alley-oop fastbreak dunk less than halfway through the quarter. The Spurs were able to keep the game from getting totally out of reach with LaMarcus and DeRozan getting buckets, and a timely three from Patty Mills brought the deficit to 11 with 5 minutes left in the second. The Spurs fought back, cutting the lead to 5 with a Rudy Gay jumper in the paint. Marco Belinelli made a terrific defensive stop on the return, but the Spurs blew the fast break, turning over the ball for an easy cherry pick dunk for LeBron James. After some helter skelter play, it was 60-54, Lakers at the half. The Spurs had cut the Lakers’ lead to single digits, but their sloppiness on both ends of the court kept them from evening it up.
DeMar DeRozan started the second half with a jumper to cut the deficit to 4. LeBron answered, but Forbes kept the Spurs in with deep shots and a drive to the basket, bring the Spurs to within two with 8 minutes left. DeMar tied the game at 71 with a smooth jumper; his basket tying up the game for the first time since early on. But the Lakers raced to an 11 point lead with key shots from LeBron and Josh Hart with just over 2 minutes left. Rudy Gay brought it back to single digits with an and-one putback, and a pair of free throws to bring the Spurs back to within six. Mills turned over the ball with a traveling call, but he made up for it with a three pointer and drawing a charging foul on Hart. Gasol put an exclamation point on the quarter with a putback dunk (hope it counts) with 0 on the clock, and the score was 88-87 after three quarters. The Lakers led by just one point.
Lonzo Ball hit a deep triple to start off the fourth quarter scoring. DeRozan answered, and after another Gasol putback dunk followed by DeMar rebounding his own miss and putting it in the basket, the Spurs led 93-91, their first lead of the game. Stephenson brought the Lakers back, and it was looking like they were going to score again when Patty Mills was defending McGee in the paint. Marco Belinelli rushed over to double team, and McGee made a pass to the referee in the backcourt, instead of one of his three open teammates. Belinelli made a layup, but the Lakers regained the lead on a LeBron triple. Belinelli, not hitting his outside shot, took it to the basket and put the Spurs back in the lead halfway through the quarter 97-96. LeBron had been playing huge minutes, and he took a break, and Rudy Gay took advantage, splitting the defense for a drive down the lane for an easy dunk. The Spurs defense was still giving wide open looks to the Lakers, but they missed a few and the Silver and Black led 102-96 with 4:24 left after a DeRozan jumper. Rondo got a drive to the basket, but a timely rejection from Aldridge kept it from turning into a Laker basket. The Spurs still had trouble putting the game away, with LeBron hitting to bring them back to within four. But the Spurs got shots on their end and stops on the Lakers, leading by 8 on a Rudy Gay jumper with 1:34 left. I seem to remember something like this happening before . . . LeBron got a quick score to reduce the lead to six, and after a pair of free throws, the Spurs led by four with a minute left. After another Spurs miss, Hart scored a triple to bring the Lakers to within a single point. DeRozan made a clutch shot at the other end to give the Spurs a three point lead with just 15 seconds left. Once again, it was coming down to the final shot. The Spurs fouled Josh Hart after a deep miss from LeBron with 3.5 seconds left. Hart hit the first shot, and intentionally missed the second, with Gasol grabbing the rebound in an intense scrum which left several players on the ground, including LeBron James. Gasol hit both of his free throws and the Spurs win 110-106.
- The Spurs started a small lineup, with Davis Bertans, Dante Cunningham, Aldridge, DeRozan, and Forbes. They started a similar lineup against them last week, except Rudy Gay was at the SF instead of Bertans.
- Johnathan Williams was the first big off the bench for the Lakers. Last week it was Ivica Zubac, who got abused by LMA and almost fouled out in 5 minutes of play. Williams blocked the first Aldridge shot he saw, so it paid off for the Lakers.
- The Spurs have been shooting lots of foul shots, but that’s their style of play. But critical misses have hurt them.
- LeBron drives the paint like a freight train, with the new rules on player movement, and how many steps he is allowed to take, he’s unstoppable.
- The Spurs transition is awful. But they’re also bad on switches, too many times Kuzma ended up with a wide-open look from three. You’d think they would want to cover that guy.
- Sometimes the Spurs offense breaks down, and they just give the ball to DeRozan. He is amazing at just creating his own shot and getting good scoring opportunities.
- Stephenson really hurt the Spurs in the second quarter with hot shooting.
- LaMarcus Aldridge was facing double and triple teams in the paint, I’d like to see the Spurs take advantage of that more, instead of just having him go 1 on 2 or 3.
- The Spurs had their turnovers under control for most of the season, but they were tossing the ball all over the court tonight for most of the game, but tightened it up just enough in the final quarter to pull out a win.
- I’ve been pretty critical of Pau Gasol’s defense this year, but he was really good tonight, and he was a key factor in the win.
[For no particular reason]
The Spurs now have a 3-2 record on the season, which means that they will have a winning record for at least a few more days, holding up an amazing record for the last 20 years. The Mavericks come to town on Monday at 7:30 to face the Silver and Black, giving fans in San Antonio their first chance to see Luka Doncic and perhaps their last chance to Dirk Nowitzki on the court of the AT&T Center, at least until the last game of the season. It looks like a good chance for the Spurs to get another win, but you can’t take anything for granted this season for the guys in Silver and Black.