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San Antonio vs. Los Angeles, Final Score: Spurs stake early lead, holding off LeBron-less Lakers 117-110

San Antonio started its lengthy homestand with a much-needed win of the sloppiest variety

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray asserted himself as the most dominant player on the floor in LeBron’s absence tonight
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of Lakers’ superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, San Antonio worked through a sloppy first quarter and took advantage of a generous LA defense to jump ahead in the first half. Intermittent periods of sloppy play threatened to doom the Spurs throughout the rest of the game, but clutch scoring by All-Star Dejounte Murray bolstered by hot shooting throughout and just enough defensive stops helped offset a turnover-plagued evening and cinch the victory.

San Antonio’s win (25-40) temporarily puts them 1.5 games ahead of the 12th seeded Sacramento Kings (24-42) pending their matchup against Denver tonight, while more importantly brought the Spurs with 12 game of the 10th place Portland Trail Blazers.

San Antonio’s Murray (26 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists) just missed yet another triple-double. While Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell sat out, surprise starter Josh Richardson (18 points and 5 rebounds) and Jakob Poeltl (18 points and 8 rebounds) and a balanced scoresheet pick up the slack in the win.

Malik Monk (17 points and 5 rebounds), Carmelo Anthony (17 points and 7 rebounds), Talen Horton-Tucker (18 points), and Russell Westbrook (17 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists) carried the bulk of the scoring production for the Lakers.

As Pop would want it - an appropriate footnote for the victory this evening - he tied Don Nelson with 1235 career regular season coaching wins!

Observations:

  • This is a splendid, if not sobering summary of what’s been causing the season-long spate of late and close L’s in the W/L column for our Spurs.
  • What are your favorite respective memories of AT&T Center? Mine was Game 3 of the 2013 finals - a 113-77 annihilation of the Heat under a flash flood of Danny Green and Gary Neal threes.
  • The HEB- and Texas-themed flag and gift card is pretty cool!
  • The Laker fan contingent seemed somewhat muted compared to the last LA visit.
  • Sequence of the Game #1: Partway through the second, Murray, lying in wait, jarred the ball away from an unsuspecting Talen Horton-Tucker and burst ahead of him to earn the breakaway layup and a 12-point lead.
  • Sequence of the Game #2: Late in the opening half, Poeltl found a cutting Primo on the baseline who shoveled it in traffic to Johnson for a sweet lay-in.
  • Sequence of the Game #3: Landale found a cutting Johnson for an acrobatic, physical, and scream-filled layup over Anthony late in the third.
  • The Russell Westbrook career experience has generated an endless highlight film of supernatural athleticism offset by glaring displays of incompetence. The game I recall that most vividly showed this disparity was 2014 WCF Game 6, where he saved OKC’s hide on numerous occasions, but when the game was on the line, 1) got picked cleanly by Kawhi on a layup attempt in overtime, 2) missed a strip attempt and lunged lazily on Tim Duncan’s game clinching turnaround, and 3) topped it off with a three that clanged off the top of the backboard and flew over.
  • Josh Richardson, with a rare starting nod, converted his first floater. Poeltl picked up two fouls in the first 100 seconds - forcing Zach Collins to fill-in. Westbrook tried to assert himself as the alpha, but missed 3 of his first 4 free throws. Doug McDermott banked home two early buckets and Murray feasted in the lane for the bulk of the Spurs’ scoring. The teams wasted several minutes on fruitless possessions and the Lakers drew San Antonio into the foul bonus early. Jock Landale and Romeo Langford scored on their three attempts, while Carmelo Anthony and Westbrook were whistled for hooking. The Spurs exited the sloppy stanza up 31-22.
  • Langford drew a charge on Westbrook (his third) to start the second frame. DJ Augustin netted six early points for LA. Murray, when not wreaking havoc on the Lakers’ offense, delivered some nice dimes to Landale deep in the paint for scores with the lead moving as high as 14. With San Antonio threatening to blow the game wide open, Malik Monk, Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony helped slice the lead in half. The Spurs finished the half up disappointingly by six and Pop furiously beating a path to the locker room.
  • A pair of Austin Reaves buckets closed LA to within one to start the third. McDermott and Richardson countered with their own threes. A Dwight Howard and-1 tied things at 73. A Westbrook and-1 gave LA its first lead since the opening moments. The Westbrook experience: right after that and-1, he launched a kickout pass into the third row. A wing three by Richardson put San Antonio up six. After Anthony kept his team in the game with midrange jumpers, an Avery Bradley three made it a one-possession game. San Antonio missed out on a handful of points with too many clanked free throws to track. A Poeltl rebound and putback closed out the Spurs scoring and they went into the fourth up 95-92.
  • San Antonio started the fourth dubiously with a Murray turnover and clock violation. Murray paired a eurostep layup and left handed one with a stepback in the lane to keep the Spurs ahead. LA repeatedly hunted Primo on mismatches. Poeltl chipped in with a pair of his own buckets. As Richardson nailed a three in transition, my wife screams out “WHO IS THIS GUY?” A Horton-Tucker three, after blocking Johnson’s attempt at the other end, brought the Lakers within three. At one point, both Westbrook and San Antonio as a team had missed half of their free throws. Two Poeltl free throws and a putback pushed the Laker deficit back to eight. Primo blocked an attempt by Monk at the rim. Tre Jones missed his free throws, but Westbrook returned the favor with a gruesome brick at the other end.
  • In the closing minutes, while San Antonio’s continued its error-prone ways, Monk converted a difficult layup to pull the Lakers within four. Poeltl went 1-for-2 with 37 seconds left to make it 115-110 and Jones turned back Monk’s attempt at the other end. Poeltl grabbed the carom and nailed both of his freebies to close out the game.

For the Lakers fan’s perspective, please visit Silver Screen and Roll.

San Antonio’s seven game homestand continues Wednesday night against Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors 7:30 PM CT.