Coming into this contest off of a pair of respectable losses against playoff contenders, the fresh-faced San Antonio Spurs will be looking to take advantage of some early slippage from LeBron James and his cadre of aging Lakers.
To call this Los Angeles squad ‘old’ is hardly a point of exaggeration as far as the NBA is concerned, with the Lakers standing atop the league in average age, a full two years older the nearest squad.
But it’s been hard to tell if Los Angeles’s early struggles have been the result of age, difficulty acclimating to significant roster turnover, or just plain old dysfunction, but all three were on display in their first two contests, and they narrowly escaped their last game against the dynamic and youthful Memphis Grizzlies with a win.
On the other hand, the Spurs are without a win since their opening night victory against the heavily injured Orlando Magic, so both teams will enter this one with something to prove.
Sample sizes are small so far, but the Spurs’ offense has managed to keep pace with those of their more challenging opponents, and unlike the Lakers, are sporting a positive net rating (3.3 - 14th in the league), so the concern is not whether these young Spurs are capable of keeping their heads above water, but whether they can find a way to win close games as opposed to losing close.
On paper, this is a perfect opportunity to do so. Sample sizes being what they are, the Lakers are unlikely to be quite as bad a team as their offensive and defensive ratings suggest, and having a pair of superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis is likely to support that notion in the long run.
In the short term, however, it’s time for these Spurs to learn how to take advantage of a dysfunctional situation when it arises. So far it looks as if the kids are alright. Now it’s time for the next step.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-2) at San Antonio Spurs (1-2)
October 26, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins - Out (Foot)
Lakers Injuries: Wayne Ellington - Out (Hamstring), Kendrick Nunn - Out (Ankle), Talen Horton-Tucker - Out (Thumb), Trevor Ariza - Out (Ankle), LeBron James - Day-to-Day (Ego)
What to watch for:
- A Long Distance Revolution: After exploding as a team from the three-point line against Orlando, only hired sharpshooter Doug McDermott has been able to continue that trend over the succeeding two games. Just as troubling has been the reduction in attempts, that have left the Spurs near the bottom of the league in attempts (27th). Traditionally the Spurs have been able to make up for a lower number of attempts with one of the better three-point shooting percentages, but the decrease in attempts has also been matched by a decline in conversion rate, finding San Antonio near the bottom of the league (26th) there as well. Hopefully this is a just a case of sample-size woes combined with a cold streak, but in all likelihood this iteration of the Spurs will need to look to spot up early and often to keep pace with rest of the league.
- The Return of the Block Lobster: Also on the list of statistical oddities is San Antonio’s overall block count. As predicted, the Spurs are sitting in the top third of the league in steals (7th), as Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, and Derrick White wreak havoc. But surprisingly, Jakob Poeltl has not been hosting block parties, even against the lowly Magic. It’s possible that Poeltl’s reputation on that end is finally beginnning to precede him, but it may also be the result of increased activity on the offensive end. Certainly block rate is only one measure of rim protection, but it’s critical that Jakob find a way to excel on both ends without giving up any ground.
For the Lakers’ fans’ perspective, visit Silver Screen and Roll (or don’t)
PtR’s Game thread 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.