Looking to even their record back out to 2-2, the Spurs came up against the superteam Los Angeles Lakers that, despite missing LeBron James, is loaded with talent but had been struggling. It was mostly a back-and-fourth affair, but after it seemed like the Spurs had taken control with a huge run to end the third quarter, the Lakers managed force overtime and win 125-121, in no small part thanks to the Spurs going 0-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Dejounte Murray had an impressive 21-12-15 triple double, Jakob Poeltl had a career-high 27 points, and Lonnie Walker and Devin Vassell combined for 40 points off the bench. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 35 points and 17 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook broke out of his slump for 33 points.
- This is the craziest roster ever. James (who was out with an ankle injury), Westbrook, Davis, DeAndre Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard . . . On one hand, yes, it’s a super team, but it’s also almost completely old/old school-style stars. It’s no surprise that this eclectic mix has struggled to a 1-2 start. (Although no LeBron allowed Westbrook to be the better, ball-dominant version of himself instead of deferring, considering off-ball is not his strength.)
- From an offensive perspective, the Lakers starting lineup featuring both Davis and Jordan seems like a bad idea, but against a Spurs team that mostly relies on driving to the basket to create its own offense, it’s matchup nightmare. They seemed rattled by it early, constantly getting blocked or deterred on their way to the basket, while struggling beyond the arc. However, the defense did well enough to hold on while waiting for the offense to show up, and the bench got things going thanks to a few Walker and Vassell threes and closed the first quarter on a 15-6 run for the seemingly improbable 29-27 lead.
- The three-pointer finally woke up for someone other than Walker and Vassell, with Murray hitting two threes late in the second quarter, and another from Walker at the buzzer put the Spurs up by one at the half, which again felt improbable since it felt like they were thoroughly outplayed at times.
- Overall those three combined to hit 7 threes for the Spurs in the first half (compared to 3 for the Lakers — another reason for the halftime lead), but Doug McDermott, Derrick White, and Keldon Johnson were a combined 0-7. McDermott is a shooter and can be excused for an off night (he also just shot 7-11 against the Bucks, so consider this averaging back to the mean), but the Spurs need the other two starters (plus Bryn Forbes off the bench, if he’s going to keep getting minutes) to find their form from three, especially against teams that can go Twin Towers on them and stack the paint on defense.
- The Spurs missed an opportunity midway through the third quarter to put some serious pressure on the officials over a series of bad calls. Westbrook appeared to commit a flagrant foul when he pulled a driving Johnson down by the arm, but the refs called an offensive foul instead, saying Jakob Poeltl pushed Westbrook. Video replays showed that was hardly the case as Westbrook was flopping (and that still doesn’t excuse the dangerous grab), and on the next Lakers possession the Spurs were called for a “soft” foul by this season’s standards. Gregg Popovich got his first technical of the season as a result before another shooting foul got Jordan free throws. Logic would say the Spurs should push it the other way and put the pressure on the refs to call fouls for them too, but the next four possessions were empty, with the team settling for (and missing) jump shots.
- However, after that the Spurs did respond, starting with Walker hitting three consecutive threes and two free throws to single-handedly lead the Spurs on an 11-0 run, and overall part of an 18-3 run to close the third quarter up 97-85. Vassell also had five of those points, as that duo once again was a huge spark off the bench and brought life to a stagnant Spurs offense. These Spurs thrive in chaos, and that’s exactly what the last four minutes of that quarter were.
- Now comes the part where the young Spurs need to learn to hold a lead and close a game. After the big high of the end of the third quarter, their aggression waned on both sides, and the Lakers opened the fourth quarter on a 19-5 run to retake the lead. The Spurs also struggled at the line, missing ALL SEVEN free throws in the quarter, which is no recipe for success. Still, they had a chance to win it, but Murray missed a decent look at the buzzer. They had Poeltl’s efforts on both ends to thank for making it to overtime, but those free throws really hurt.
- The Spurs — playing a tight 7-man lineup for the final quarter and OT with McDermott having left with knee soreness — looked gassed at the start of overtime, quickly getting down by 6, and although they responded to tie things back up, it wasn’t enough. It was quite a roller coaster ride of a game, with the Spurs feeling both jubilation and disappointment on the same night. It was for the most part another impressive showing against a superior opponent (yes, even without LeBron), but it provided plenty of learning moments and will probably leave them feeling like they let a big opportunity get away.
For the Lakers fan’s perspective, visit Silver Screen and Roll.
The Spurs are headed back on the road to face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Tip-off will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW.