Ah, November at last. That glorious time of the year when boiling Texas temperatures finally simmer, NBA basketball begins to hit its stride, and the first SEGABABA rears its ugly head. The San Antonio Spurs regained their share of the Western Conference lead with a win against what had been a surprisingly downtrodden Warriors team, and who should be waiting on the other side of that win but nemeses of yore, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, now bound together in the most unholy of marriages, and (ever so fittingly) tied with the Silver and Black atop the standings.
After losing the opener to their Los Angeles counterparts and the-forward-who-must-not-be-named, the Lakers have reeled off four straight wins, two of them against potential playoff qualifiers in the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz and come in red hot with Anthony Davis averaging an almost 30pt double-double (29.2pts, 11.6reb), and LeBron James checking in just a bit shy of averaging a triple-double. (26.4pts, 7.4reb, 10.8ast)
Meanwhile, all San Antonio has done is cement their standing as one of the league’s best offenses (1st in offensive rating, 6th at 116pts per game, 5th in FG% at 47.5%), while slowly but surely finding their stride defensively, (7th in blocks, 9th in point differential) and most importantly, winning the games that they should win.
Which brings us back to a game that in the end might prove to be a playoff preview for yet another chapter in this storied rivalry. Both teams have proven to be relatively balanced thus far. The Lakers are leaning on their defense, but also leading the league in point differential. The Spurs are riding a red hot offense powered by both the versatility and the sheer number of legitimate threats, but also showing extended flashes on the other end of the court as well.
With each team having lost only to the Clippers, this looks to be interesting match-up, and one that may end up carrying more weight than the early timing of the meeting suggests. Spurs vs. Lakers games have always been my favorites, and prior to the arrival of LeBron James, even the more unfortunate Lakers teams have had a habit of positioning themselves as thorns in San Antonio’s side. Hopefully that’s not the case tonight.
Los Angeles Lakers (4-1) at San Antonio Spurs (4-1)
November 3, 2019 | 6:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Lakers Injuries: DeMarcus Cousins (Knee – OUT), Rajon Rondo (Ankle – Game Time Decision), Talen Horton-Tucker (Foot – Game Time Decision)
What to watch for:
- Can the San Antonio defense put a full-game together? – One of the issues plaguing the Spurs this season has been defensive inconsistency. Rotations aside, the Spurs have a habit of putting the clamps on for the length of one quarter, and then hemorrhaging points in the next. If they can put it all together for all four quarters, look out. But if they continue to follow up quarters in which they only allow 20 points, with quarters in which they allow 39 points (like against Portland for example), this game could get ugly quick. Right now the Lakers are playing some of the best defense in the league, and it’s going to take more than a dynamic offense to hang with them.
- Which LaMarcus Aldridge will we get? – The last two games have been a tale of two LaMarcus’s, with him shooting 25% (for 5 pts) in a tight game against the Clippers but appearing to rebound (pun intended) after a rough start against the Warriors for his usual twenty and ten-ish (22 pts, 8 reb). As multifaceted as this offense can be, and as important as his defensive presence is, it’s just not the same without him providing that interior and mid-range threat in the front-court. We’ve seen Aldridge go into early-season slumps, and while my gut tells me it was just a bad game, it’s certainly something to keep an eye out for.
- How will San Antonio react in the return from their first road trip of the season? The jokes about the Spurs being old and unfashionably retro never seem to end, but as has been previously pointed out, this is Pop’s youngest and most fast-paced team in years. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the quick turnaround after playing late Friday night. Will the extra rest from that last game off cause Murray to go supernova against a lackluster Los Angeles back-court? Will Pop be quick to pull the aging legs that are on the roster in favor of fresher ones if needed? Will Aldridge and DeRozan getting the lion’s share of the attention from James and Davis lead to an unexpected scoring night from other Spurs? Will FIBA/Saiyan level Patty make a back-to-back appearance off the bench? Tune in to find out!
All in all, this looks to be a tight (and possibly low scoring) game. Both teams are in the bottom-half of the league in 3pt% and three-pointers taken, so expect this one to be decided down low, and in gritty fashion. The Spurs hold the advantage in the back-court, the Lakers hold the advantage at the wing, and both teams have been struggling with the consistency of their free throw conversion. With each roster doing most of their scoring in the post or from the mid-range, this feels like old times. All we’ll need is a flagrant foul or two to power my hot-tub time-machine into the past. My guess is that you won’t want to miss this one. I know I sure as heck won’t.
Vegas Line: Spurs by 1
Prediction: Spurs by 4
For the Lakers fans perspective, don’t. But if you really, really, really want it, you should probably visit Silver Screen and Roll.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed if you don’t have a radio around.