LeBron James returned to game action and his Lakers picked up their first road victory of the year at the expense of a cold-shooting San Antonio group. Los Angeles, using a template oft-seen in this humbling stretch for the Spurs, surged out to an early lead that it maintained to the finish.
The Fiesta uniforms and court suffered their first setback of the season, but the hosts left their shooting touch at home this evening to the tune of 6-for-33 from three. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell initiated a late third quarter run and turned a snoozer into a 75-79 game. An 11-0 run put the Spurs back on their heels and cinched a win for LA.
Lonnie Walker IV returned to the birthplace of his career and did damage to the tune of 18 points and 3 steals, while LeBron James (21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists) and Anthony Davis (25 points and 15 rebounds) provided ample support to fend off a San Antonio team that lost it’s 12th in the last 13 games. Tre Jones picked up 19 points and 5 assists, while Vassell notiched 18 points and 6 rebounds, and Johnson, with his shooting touch failing him, attacked the basket relentlessly to the tune of 15 points and 9 rebounds. All five starters achieved double-digit scoring in the team’s seventh straight loss.
- In case you wanted to see what Pelicans’ guard Jose Alvarado “sneak behind you in the backcourt and steal the ball” move looks like on the soccer pitch, here you go.
- Walker IV, in his first trip back to town, received recognition for his time here and his recent improvement as a Lakers starter also received the ESPN coverage that up-and-comers have tended to get.
- Sequence of the Game #1: Late in the opening period, Vassell took an end-to-end transition opportunity through the retreating Lakers for a hard-earned and-1.
- Sequence of the Game #2: Sochan nabbed a steal early in the second period, and moved it deftly upcourt to find a cutting an Isaiah Roby for a lay-up.
- Sequence of the Game #3: Late in the third period and after a delayed transition, Vassell found Tre Jones cross-court and Jones rolled baseline for a lay-up. Vassell then muscled his own banker shortly after to bring San Antonio within four.
- Devin’s Deeds: It was nice to see Vassell use a hesitation move to freeze up his defender and give him time to probe the paint for his next move.
- The highlight of the first half was George Gervin being feted between the first and second periods and joining Bill Land and Sean Elliott for a rousing discussion. Notable quotes from the Iceman: “Time don’t wait on nobody” after Elliott shared that his infamous ‘Ice’ poster adorned his (and so many other fans’) wall. “Everybody talks about Kevin Durant... I had a different array of shots. Lots of guys don’t work on their fundamentals. I don’t see anyone like me.” (of who now reminds him of himself). “I don’t put nobody as the best ever. But I put him (LeBron) as one of the best ever.” (best player ever?). “Back in the day, you couldn’t dunk [thanks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance].. I didn’t invent it, but I made it famous.” (on development of his patented finger roll). ”They’re fun to watch, they play hard... they just don’t know how to finish yet. That’s youth!” (pretty much the description of these Spurs that we should all internalize).
- Jeremy’s Journey: His handles are not flashy, but very effective, as evidenced by his 5 assist to 2 turnover ratio.
- While Walker IV didn’t commit a foot fault on the sidelines this game, he did get whistled for steps in the second half.
- Elliott pleaded with AND for us “I’d just like to see our guys play well tonight,” but San Antonio failed to oblige, as LA’s defense picked up Spur ballhandlers deep in the backcourt and put them on their heels. Sochan’s first jumper found its way, but Walker IV picked up an assist, two threes, and a pair of acrobatic lay-ups in transition to help put the Lakers up ten. Defensively, Zach Collins managed to swat away a desperation Davis heave, and Sochan followed that with a block of a Dennis Schroder floater. The Spurs exited a ragged uneven opener lucky to be down only 14.
- A more engaged Spurs defense nabbed steals and deflections galore, but were unable to put a dent in the Lakers’ advantage. Walker IV flubbed a dunk opportunity to fans’ delight, but did nail a three shortly after. San Antonio strugged mightily behind the arc and in the paint, to which LA were happy to make them repeatedly pay in transition. The Lakers left the half up 59-41.
- Vassell banked home a jumper and willed in an and-1, while Sochan rattled home a corner three to start the third. Though it was encouraging to see San Antonio put more points on the board, the Lakers matched them. Johnson’s paired a set of big bodied finishes in traffic around a pull-up three to shave into the deficit. San Antonio found its footing around Johnson’s foray’s to the rim and Vassell’s mid-range shooting to make it a two-possession game heading into the final frame.
- A Roby three brought San Antonio within three, but their next handful of misses came tantalizingly close to going in, but rattled out. A pair of James buckets in transition capped off a 9-0 run by Los Angeles. Davis swatted away two straight Spurs attempts and a pair of his own tip follows iced the game.
For the Lakers fan’s perspective, please visit Silver Screen and Roll.
San Antonio concludes its Lakers SEGABABA tomorrow evening at 7:00 PM CDT.