As the San Antonio Spurs get set to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season, they probably didn’t expect it to come with the Spurs being ahead in the standings. Having the third-worst record in the Western Conference is about where most people saw the Spurs residing. The Lakers, on the other hand, had a lot higher hopes, as any team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be expected to make the playoffs and potentially, the NBA Finals.
The combination of expectations and lack of results make this Lakers unit a scary one. They’ll basically be playing every game until they right the ship with their backs against the walls. And with a rest disadvantage, that puts the Spurs in a tough predicament. This doesn’t even take into account that there’s a chance the Lakers get LeBron James back from injury. His eventual return will provide even more of a spark to a desperate team.
No matter the outcome, each game presents learning opportunities for the Spurs’ youth. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell have been learning how to be the go-to scorers for a team – a role they’ve mostly been thriving in. They’ve both have chances at game-winning baskets that have come up short. Jeremy Sochan has matched up against just about every type of player the league has to offer and is working his way through bettering his offensive game. Every player on the roster has something they’ve been working on, and this game against the Lakers is just another test they’ve been tasked with taking.
San Antonio Spurs (6-11) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (4-10)
November 20, 2022 | 8:30 PM CST
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Lakers Injuries: Anthony Davis (Probable – back), LeBron James (Questionable – adductor), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Questionable – back), Max Christie (Out – health and safety protocols), Scotty Pippen Jr. (Out – G League), Cole Swider (Out – G League)
Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell (Questionable – ankle), Romeo Langford (Out – health and safety protocols), Zach Collins (Out – leg), Blake Wesley (Out – MCL), Dominick Barlow (Out – G League)
What to Watch for
- Will Gregg Popovich sit anybody on a back-to-back? You may have noticed in the injury report above that only Devin Vassell is listed as questionable. There was a possibility he would suit up against the Clippers, but was officially ruled out not too long before tipoff. At the end of a five-game road trip that tested the Spurs thoroughly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pop sit some players out to give them some extra rest. It also wouldn’t be surprising if nobody sat because of how many players they have out already. We’ll just have to wait and see who ends up in the lineup.
- Lonnie Walker revenge game? The former Spurs’ first-round pick left the team in free agency this offseason to take his talents elsewhere. A lot of that probably has to do with the limited role he had in San Antonio. This year, the fifth-year guard is averaging a career-high in minutes (31.3), field goal percentage (47.1%), and points (16.6). He’s always been a pretty streaky scorer, and now that he seems to have a green light, there’s a chance he frustrates Spurs fans one more time.
- How does the Spurs frontcourt hold up? The Lakers aren’t the biggest team in the league, but their one main big is quite a load to handle. Anthony Davis is coming off back-to-back games of scoring 35-plus points and collecting 15-plus rebounds. When he’s right, he’s still an All-NBA level player on both ends of the ball. Jakob Poeltl might be able to hold his own in some way, but what happens when Charles Bassey comes into the game? Do the Spurs go small at all? Regardless of whether LeBron ends up playing or not, it’ll most likely be how Davis does that affects the outcome of the game.
- Will the Spurs ever lower their turnover number? Over the years, the Spurs have been a team you can count on being toward the bottom of the standings in total turnovers. However, that has not been the case this year. Whether it’s the lack of experience or chemistry, the Spurs have been turning it over at the second-highest clip in the league (17.4 per game). Not all of these are live-ball turnovers, but even the dead-ball ones take points off the board. When all is said and done, opponents are averaging 22.8 points per game off of Spurs turnovers. That’s a number they’ll need to get a handle on as the season progresses.
For the Lakers fan’s perspective, please visit Silver Screen and Roll.
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