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Spurs beat rivals Lakers to close the gap in Play-In race

One win to go and Coach Pop will stand alone atop of the coaching hierarchy

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

On a night of celebration, the San Antonio Spurs won their 25th game of the season beating longtime rivals the Los Angeles Lakers. The 25th win meaning Gregg Popovich now ties Don Nelson for the most All-Time regular season wins in NBA history at 1,135.

The Spurs got a boost before the game began when it was announced that LeBron James would be sitting this game out as he nurses a knee injury. With the home team now favored in this matchup with their play-in rivals, it was to be expected that they would come out and be aggressive and assert their dominance, but the refs were not going to let them get away with it. Jakob Poeltl was the culprit as he was called for two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the contest. This wasn’t going to stop Dejounte Murray from putting his stamp on the game, with the All-Star point-guard getting to his spots for six early points. The Lakers were getting downhill and were awarded with an abundance of free throws — they were in the bonus before the six-minute mark of the first. The short-handed Spurs bench came in and provided a flash of energy, pounding the ball on the inside for easy baskets. They found themselves up nine at the end of one.

San Antonio were active on defense and this was causing turnovers and bad shots for the visiting team. The Lakers were also having trouble on the other end by not being able to stop the penetration of the Spurs perimeter players. Towards the end of the half, Los Angeles, were able to see a couple of jumpers fall in which helped them keep in touch at the half, only being down; 62-56.

At the start of the second the Spurs were slow out of the blocks with their communication on defense lacking allowing for easy buckets for the opposition. Josh Richardson who got the spot start for the game in the absence of Devin Vassell got cooking in this quarter, hitting three shots from outside the arc to light up the AT&T Center. The game for the most part was physical with both teams trying to attack the rim and get foul calls, the only problem was neither team were hitting their free throws with any consistency. The Silver & Black did just enough to hold onto the lead heading into the dreaded fourth quarter.

The home teams three-point lead was evaporated almost straight away but Dejounte Murray decided to take actions into his own hands by going at the Lakers himself which resulted in a mix bag of possessions. He turned the ball over a few times, but in transition he was taking it at the defense and was converting those opportunities into points. The Spurs got a bit of breathing room in the middle of the quarter but the road side responded with a few consecutive makes that brought the game back to three with five minutes to play. In the last few months it’s been San Antonio’s defense that has let them down in close games but against the Lakers their defense started to ramp up late. They were flying around contesting shots, blocking the ball at the rim and even getting a few sneaky steals to stop any momentum. On the other end their offense was not at its fluid best, Dejounte, who had done so much for the majority of the game was deferring to others as he looked gassed. This didn’t help the Spurs offense get into any type of rhythm. In the end it was actually Jakob Poeltl who finished the game off from the free throw line to give Pop the 117-110 win which tied the record.

Game Notes

  • Bench. With no Lonnie Walker IV or Keita Bates-Diop coming off the bench for this game it gave minutes to a few others that hadn’t had many chances as of late. Romeo Langford made his debut for the Spurs playing 16 minutes and contributing seven points on three of four shooting, he was also a plus 13. Romeo was passive in his first few minutes but after his first bucket he looked more confident attacking of the dribble and even a pull up mid-range jumper that was money. But the most impressive part of his game was the defense. He had to deal with Carmelo Anthony who is a bigger body than him, but did a good job at fronting him on post ups and forcing the Lakers to go away from the matchup. He forced a charge and was active off the ball, Pop played him into the fourth quarter and showed some trust in the young wing, hopefully he can get regular rotation minutes the rest of the season. Jock Landale also got some minutes tonight with Jakob in foul trouble and Zach Collins not having the best of games. The Aussie was physical down low and even scored the ball a little bit for a tune of eight points on four of five shooting. He flashed his playmaking with three assists and was a real positive on the floor (also was a +13). Josh Primo got some extra minutes and he certainly made them count with some incredible defensive plays and tough rebounding. The offense wasn’t quite there but everything else was great. (We’ll talk about Tre Jones in just a bit).
  • Closing Time. Statically the Spurs are a bottom five clutch team in the league and going into the fourth against the Lakers in a close game it wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had lost this one. But San Antonio gutted out the win down the stretch in an ugly fourth quarter where neither team really got going. They may have got the win in this one but there is still a lot of work to be done executing down the stretch going forward.
  • Play-In Update. San Antonio are 2.5 games out of the 10th seed with 17 games to play.

Play of the Game

The concentration to take the hit and still finish was superb.

Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)

3rd place (1 point): Tre Jones | 25mins, 7 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks

Earlier I talked about the bench unit stepping up in the absence of a few rotation players but the best of the lot was Tre Jones. The backup point guard was impressive in his 25 minutes, stuffing the box score. He was all over the court, from helping on defense to orchestrating on offense, he even came up with a few clutch plays of both ends of the floor.

2nd place (2 points): Josh Richardson | 30mins, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4/5 threes, +11

Getting his first start in the Silver & Black, Josh Richardson, started off slow but as the game got going so did he. The second half was a showcase of his shooting as he got scorching hot from the outside. He is always talking out there, communicating with his teammates and being a leader, making sure everyone knows their responsibilities. As one of the vets on the team, Richardson, is going to be vital for this young group the rest of the way, whether he is getting minutes or not.

1st place (3 points): Dejounte Murray | 38mins, 26 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals

Dejounte seemed to take his matchup against Russell Westbrook personally because he was in attack mode all night long. Or maybe he wanted to impress his good friend LeBron James who was sitting on the Lakers bench. But either way Murray put on a show, he was animated throughout the game, wanting the win bad. He had six turnovers but was tasked with playing heavy minutes and creating on nearly every offensive possession. So, it was no surprise that the All-Star was tired late and that’s why he didn’t have the ball in his hands as much as it should have in the last few minutes. DJ was a game high +17 and it showed because the Spurs were immensely better when he was out there controlling the ship.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 99pts

2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 59pts

3rd - Derrick White- 51pts

4th - Keldon Johson - 45pts

5th - Devin Vassell- 42pts

6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 30pts

7th - Doug McDermott - 16pts

8th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

9th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts

10th - Tre Jones - 7pts

11th - Keita Bates-Diop - 6pts

12th - Jock Landale - 4pts

13th - Josh Primo & Josh Richardson - 3pts

14th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts

15th - Devontae Cacok - 1pt

Next Game: Vs Toronto on Wednesday

Gregg Popovich’s first chance to break the record will be against the Toronto Raptors in the Spurs second game of their seven game home-stand.