For much of this game, it felt like the Lakers were just biding their time before deciding to hit the turbojets and pull out a win. There were many similarities to last week’s contest on New Year’s day when L.A. flipped the switch in the third quarter after looking disinterested up to that point. Fortunately, San Antonio was able to maintain its focus and aggression, resulting in a 118-109 victory over the defending champs.
The Spurs should be commended for not rolling over and accepting what might’ve been a foregone conclusion. The guys could’ve easily let their previous losses to the Lakers get into their heads, but they instead kept on attacking and outhustled a more talented team. After hitting 20 threes on Tuesday, San Antonio continued its hot shooting by converting on 11 triples in the first half alone. LaMarcus Aldridge, in particular, had a bounceback game by punishing L.A for their lazy closeouts. The veteran made all different types of shots, from his patented turnaround jumpers to bombs from distance. Combine that with some sloppy play from L.A and the Spurs went into halftime with a nine-point lead.
Similar to New Year’s day, the Lakers flipped the switch in the third quarter and erased the deficit in a matter of minutes. L.A.’s beautiful ball movement left San Antonio scrambling, resulting in many easy buckets for the home team. The Spurs were also forced to put up some last-second heaves due to the Lakers’ stifling defense, although this didn’t stop Aldridge from swishing a desperation three to continue his hot shooting day. Unsurprisingly, the major difference between the two teams was the presence of L.A.’s superstar duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Both were unstoppable when they had the ball, as Davis dominated in the paint while James caught fire from deep and picked apart the Spurs’ defense with his uncanny playmaking abilities.
A quarter left and San Antonio were only up by two, I was admittedly getting worried. Fortunately, the Spurs continued to compete on both ends of the floor and the lead was stretched back to double digits. Meanwhile, it seemed like the Lakers were planning on winning the game on their talent alone, as they went back to playing uninspiring basketball. settling for jump shots instead of attacking the basket. Two minutes left to go in the 4th, Frank Vogel subbed out James and Davis, allowing the Spurs to play some of their reserves and come away with their second straight win at Staples.
Personally, my biggest takeaway from this game is the fact that San Antonio maintained its composure even after the Lakers erased their lead. As we saw on Tuesday, the Spurs are still susceptible to scrambling once the tide turns against them. However, Thursday’s game showed that they have the ability to quickly learn from their mistakes, which is more valuable in the long run than an extra W here and there in this year’s standings.
- As I previously mentioned, Aldridge had a great bounceback game and went 11-18 from the field, including 3-7 from three-point territory. Perhaps he was extra motivated after reading my game notes from Tuesday’s matchup in which I questioned whether age had finally caught up with the vet.
- That being said, he might’ve given back almost as many points with the number of easy buckets Anthony Davis was getting in the paint. It’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about Anthony freaking Davis here, but it’s still not the best idea to give anyone a number of wide-open dunks in a single game. A lot of those seemed to have come in transition, so the Spurs need to do a better job of getting back on defense after scoring.
- Keldon Johnson had a rough night offensively, but I absolutely love his hustle and compete level. Even though his shots weren’t falling, he still stayed aggressive and kept on attacking the basket with no hesitation. This kid really isn’t fazed by anything.
- Demar DeRozan wasn’t his usual efficient self today, but he did make a pair of threes in the first quarter. He has now hit nine in total this season, which is the same number he had all of last year! Now with Aldridge shooting threes as well, is it too early to call them the second coming of the Splash Brothers?
- Speaking of threes, I was surprised to see that Dejounte Murray is only averaging one triple per game and is currently shooting less than 30% from beyond the arc. Maybe it’s just me, but he seems to be a lot more comfortable pulling up from distance this year, so I was expecting much better percentages. Even so, it’s nice to see him shoot confidently since this will keep defenses honest even if he still hasn’t fully mastered the shot yet.
Next game: Timberwolves on Saturday
The Spurs will look to extend their current winning streak to three against a Timberwolves team that’s lost six straight without Karl-Anthony Towns.