The San Antonio Spurs have been on a roll lately when it comes to playing teams with better records, and this was no exception as the entered the Staples Center for the second game in a row, this time trouncing the Lakers using an unexpected source. Keita Bates-Diop scored a career high 30 points to lead six Spurs in double figures, while LeBron James and Russell Westbrook combined for 66 points, but they didn’t get enough help as the Spurs teamwork led them to a 138-110 win over their old rivals.
The first quarter was tight for the first nine minutes, with the Spurs maintaining a close lead thanks to hitting 5-13 threes to overcome James’ nine early points that kept the Lakers afloat. However, the bench unit — which included Jock Landale again — gradually came in and helped spark a 14-5 run over the final four minutes. Landale was all over the place with four points, four rebounds (all offensive), two assists, a steal and a drawn offensive foul, and the Spurs ended up leading 33-24 at the end of first quarter on the Landale tip-in.
He continued to torture an unsuspecting Lakers defense to start the second quarter. After Lonnie Walker hit his third three of the game, he then found Landale for the wide-open dunk after Dwight Howard left him to play help defense, and then Landale hit a three as Howard sagged off him. Next it was Keita Bates-Diop’s turn to show off, as he got some extended playing time at center after the Lakers decided to play micro-ball. He had 10 points and 4 rebounds early, and overall the bench scored half of the Spurs’ 66 first-half points. James was the only reason the Lakers were still in it at that point, with 23 of the Lakers’ 55 points.
The Spurs got the first five points of the third quarter to briefly grab their largest lead, but while they maintained a double-digit lead nearly throughout the quarter, they never quite did enough to put the Lakers away, whether it was the little mistakes or the Lakers upping their aggression just enough to keep them from running away whenever there was fear it could happen. It was also an absurdly long quarter with both teams in the bonus early and the refs very happy whistle-happy, but after the Lakers got within nine points, the Spurs closed the quarter with the final four points from Bates-Diop to take a 105-92 lead into the fourth.
However, the Spurs finally put their foot on the gas to start the fourth quarter, with Derrick White taking over while KBD remained the hot hand, and once the Spurs got the lead up to 22 points, interim head coach David Fizdale waived the white flag and emptied the bench. For good measure, Bates-Diop tempted the fate of his perfect game twice in the final 2:33 (including on their last meaningful offensive possession) with a couple of threes that went in.
It was a fitting end to the Staples Center, which will reopen as Crypto.com Arena on Christmas. (For the record, it will be the exact same building, decor and everything, just a new name.) The Spurs are the only team in the league by a mile with a winning record in the arena, so it was some sweet serendipity that the final game of the Staples era ended the same way.
- The Spurs’ 66-55 halftime lead was especially impressive considering Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson were off in the first half, with a combined 11 points on 4-18 shooting. In fact, Doug McDermott was the only starter in double figures at halftime with 10 points. Johnson finally hit a couple of threes in the second half and ended the night with a 16-10 double-double. Murray only scored 9 points on the night, but he still had 13 assists to 0 turnovers, which is pretty impressive on its own, especially against the Lakers physical defense.
- A big reason for Bates-Diop’s 27 minutes on the night (besides him having the hot hand) was the Lakers decision to play micro-ball with James at center for extended stretches. Jakob Poeltl started both halves, and after Landale initially backed him up in the first half, Gregg Popovich decided to match their approach by putting Bates-Diop at center. It clearly worked well enough, and Pop went right back to it in the second half after one possession of Poeltl guarding James ended with him hitting an easy three.
- It was another hot night of shooting threes for the Spurs, who hit 18-39 (46.2 percent) — nearly 10 attempts higher than their league-worst season average od 29.8 attempts per game. Meanwhile the Lakers, who are also bottom 10 in three-point attempts but shoot four more per game than the Spurs, only hit 5-27 on the night. Hitting 13 more threes is always a good recipe for victory no matter who the opponent is.
Play of the Game
Walker’s passing skills were on full display in game, and this nifty behind-the-back pass to Landale was the beginning of the end of any dwindling comeback hopes the Lakers had.
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Lonnie Walker | 21 points, 3 assists, 4-8 from three
After his streak of double-digit scoring ended on Monday in the same building, Walker came back strong against the Lakers and was an immediate spark off the bench. His three first half threes got the Spurs out to a comfortable lead they would never relinquish, and he remained aggressive throughout the game, even when he wasn’t the one doing the scoring.
2nd place (2 points): Derrick White | 23 points, 7 assists, 2 blocks, 4-6 from three
Considering how this game started, it was looking like this might be an all-bench SVP game, and Landale would make his second appearance, but White was quietly there doing his thing all night. He picked his moments in the first half and was a steadying presence for a starting unit that struggled early before taking over in the second half, hitting timely shots whenever the Lakers threatened. With his confidence completely restored, the Spurs are a different team.
1st place (3 points): Keita Bates-Diop | 30 points, 11-11 FG, 7 rebounds
As Dan Weiss and Sean Elliott put it, Bates-Diop was mainly on the floor for defensive purposes (which he also did well), and all the points were just gravy, but what a delicious, savory Christmas gravy it was. Not only did he become the first Spurs player to score 30 points this season, but he did it on a perfect 11-11 from the field, tying Fabricio Oberto for the best shooting performance in franchise history — and this included 3 threes. The only thing keeping it from being a truly perfect game was he missed two free throws.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 49pts
2nd - Derrick White - 30pts
3rd - Devin Vassell - 21pts
4th - Keldon Johnson - 20pts
5th - Jakob Poeltl - 19pts
6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 13pts
7th - Thaddeus Young & Bryn Forbes - 9pts
8th - Doug McDermott - 7pts
9th - Keita Bates-Diop - 4 pts
10th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts
11th - Jock Landale, Josh Primo, & Tre Jones - 1pt
Up next: The Spurs get the holiday off before returning home to start a three-game homestand (ahead of what will be a seven-game road trip that is not the Rodeo Road Trip), beginning with the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 6:00 PM CT. This will also be the first night of a back-to-back.