It hasn’t been the smoothest start to the season for the new-look Los Angeles Lakers as they continue to look for ways to integrate the various new pieces that now make up their roster. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been going about that process without LeBron James, who has only appeared in 6 contests so far in the early going due to a few of nagging injuries. The off-season trade for Russell Westbrook, which was maligned by many and raised reasonable questions regarding fit when it happened, has at least given Los Angeles a ball handler that can run the offense while James is sidelined. How that tandem will operate when James comes back remains to be seen, but the Lakers are hoping that Westbrook and Anthony Davis can keep the ship afloat long enough for the King to return.
In their first meeting of the season, which was also a game where James was unavailable, the Spurs squandered a double-digit 4th quarter lead, eventually losing in OT. San Antonio went 0-7 from the free throw line in that 4th quarter, ultimately wasting an impressive triple-double performance from Dejounte Murray and a career-high 27 points from Jakob Poeltl. With Poeltl’s status for this road trip still up in the air, the Spurs will have their hands full with Davis and LA’s other bigs.
San Antonio Spurs (4-8) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7-6)
November 14, 2021 | 2:30 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports SW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Jakob Poeltl (Day to day — COVID Protocols), Jock Landale (Out — COVID Protocols), Keita Bates-Diop Questionable — Back
Lakers Injuries: Trevor Ariza (Out — ankle), Kendrick Nunn (out — knee), LeBron James (abdomen — day to day), Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb — day to day), Austin Reaves (hamstring — OUT)
What to watch for
- The Spurs were actually able to out-rebound Los Angeles in the first meeting 59-56, a figure that includes an impressive 16-9 offensive rebound advantage. The Silver and Black did well rebounding by committee, while Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl were able to offset the damage done by Westbrook and Davis in the first match-up, but with Jakob’s status up in the air, San Antonio will need to come with that same group effort if they hope to replicate their success in that department at the Staples Center.
- Westbrook’s statistical performance in the first game may have been his most impressive outing yet as a Laker, finishing with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists against just 3 turnovers. He comes into tonight not far removed from a 25-12-14 clutch performance against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. With LeBron out of the lineup, Russ has been able to play the style of ball he’s played for much of his career, dominating the ball and setting up his teammates on offense. With James likely sidelined today, expect to more of the same.
- The Silver and Black won almost every statistical category the last time they played the Lakers. The one that, ultimately, cost them the game? A -5 disadvantage in free throw makes, including a horrendous 0/7 line in the 4th quarter. Free throw shooting has been an issue when the Spurs have gotten to the line this season, as they are shooting just 69% from the foul line this season, 2nd to last behind only the Houston Rockets.
- Devin Vassell has been a bright spot for San Antonio through their first 12 games. He’s already scored in double digits in 5 games after reaching that threshold just 11 times all of last season, a figure also includes two 20-point performances, the first such instances of his young career. His 19 points and five 3s helped to pace the Spurs throughout their first match-up against the Lakers and he’s got the confidence to go out there and do it again.
- Even with an extremely effective defender in Jakob checking him for much of the game, Anthony Davis dominated from inside the 3-point arc when . Davis went off for 35 points, with 15 of them coming at Jak’s expense. If Poeltl can’t go, the Spurs will really have their hands full with the Brow.
For the Lakers fan’s perspective, please visit Silver Screen & Roll.
As always, PtR’s game thread will be up a half hour before tip-off. You may also follow along with our live Twitter commentary (@poundingtherock) which occurs for every game.