The San Antonio Spurs finished their four-game Western Conference road trip with a resounding 138-110 triumph over the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers, giving the Staples Center a silent sendoff as their longtime rivals rebrand their home court to the Crypto.com Arena.
Keita Bates-Diop paced the Silver and Black with a career-high 30 points, as Derrick White scored 23 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 21 points off the bench. LeBron James led the Lakers with 36 points, nine boards, and six assists, closely followed by 30 points from Russell Westbrook.
- The officiating crew was a little generous towards the Lakers early in the first quarter, giving them the upper hand on a few consecutive calls. They caught an improper resetting of the shot clock a few seconds too late and allowed Los Angeles to inbound the ball on the sidelines. They followed it up with conflicting calls that ultimately resulted in a pair of free throws for Talen Horton-Tucker. You never want to blame the refs for how a contest unfolds, but those were a few headscratchers that didn’t do much to help the Silver and Black.
- Jock Landale was the first big man off the bench for San Antonio for the third straight game, and the Australian center again made an immediate offensive impact. He notched four points, four rebounds, two assists, two free throw attempts, and a steal while nailing a buzzer-beating putback to end the opening frame. The 26-year-old rookie kept his momentum rolling in the second quarter, showing off his inside-out repertoire with a pick-and-roll rim-rocker and pick-and-pop three. Landale ended the game with a career-high 13 points, and it might be safe to say he is here to stay as a staple of the second unit.
- Lonnie Walker IV has averaged 15.3 points per game on 48.6% shooting over his last six appearances, and he continued his recent shooting resurgence with another promising performance against the Lakers. The fourth-year guard had ten points, two assists, and a trio of trifectas at halftime. He would go on to finish the contest with 21 points and three assists, including a slick behind-the-back dish to Jock Landale that momentarily got the Staples Center crowd off their feet.
- The Purple and Gold sported the ninth-best defensive rating in the league entering this matchup. But COVID-19 protocols and nagging injuries left their roster out of whack as Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, and even head coach Frank Vogel missed this one. And as Sean Elliot and Dan Weiss noted on the broadcast, the Spurs capitalized on every mistake and miscommunication between the hodgepodge lineups of Lakers on the court.
- San Antonio’s new city edition uniforms have made for some of the most appealing apparel in the NBA, which is why my fabulous fiancé deserves a shoutout for letting me unwrap a Josh Primo fiesta jersey as an early Christmas present before the game. Not so coincidentally, the Spurs donned their pink, orange, and teal attire tonight against Los Angeles, improving to 5-1 when they wear their radiant threads and giving me another smile this holiday season.
- Derrick White earned a pair of free throws midway through the third quarter after drawing a shooting foul on Dwight Howard inside the paint. The crafty combo guard began the evening with the most consecutive makes in the league, and he extended his streak, knocking down his 30th and 31st freebie in a row. He later got back to the line at the beginning of the fourth quarter, hitting his 32nd and 33rd foul shots in a row. Unfortunately, the third trip to the line wasn’t the charm for the Colorado University alumnus, as his streak ended after his 34th consecutive make.
- Keita Bates-Diop has been a versatile defensive sparkplug in his second go-round with the Spurs, and head coach Gregg Popovich has employed him as a spot-starter and do-it-all stopper throughout the season. The gangly forward has largely been a non-factor on the offensive end, but that was far from the case in Los Angeles. The second-round success story feasted on a disorganized Lakers defense, intelligently moving without the basketball, making timely backdoor cuts, and relocating on the perimeter on his way to a career-high 30 points on 11-of-11 shooting in just under 25 minutes of action. He also became the first Spur to score 30 points this season.
- Dejounte Murray may have laid an egg from the field with a dreadful 3-of-16 shooting performance, but the spindly floor general still found a way to make meaningful contributions in other areas. While the sixth-year point guard showed off his defensive acumen with two blocks and two steals, it was his penchant for making the right pass that shined in San Antonio’s victory. Murray racked up 13 assists and committed zero turnovers, making him the third player to notch that stat line this season. The others? James Harden and Chris Paul. Not bad company for a former late first-rounder.
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The San Antonio Spurs return to the AT&T Center for a matchup with the Detroit Pistons on Sunday as they kick off a three-game homestand.