There appeared to be several hopeful and sustained moments in the game that hinted towards an improbable Spurs win tonight. San Antonio took advantage of a visibly tired Los Angeles team playing its second game in consecutive nights, while incorporating back Anthony Davis and newly acquired Rui Hachimura into its line-up, by building a double-digit lead in the first half and staving off several Laker runs in the process. The trio of Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Keita-Bates Diop provided the bulk of the scoring muscle to accomplish the advantage. A late run, however, led by Davis and Russell Westbrook helped bring the hosts to within one at the break.
Los Angeles was able to re-claim the lead in the third through persistent defensive clamps and timely outside shooting by unexpected sources. A 10-0 run punctuated by a Keldon Johnson three in transition pushed the Spurs back into the driver’s seat through the frame. The Lakers started seemingly to capture all 50/50 hustle balls spanning the third and fourth, however, which allowed them to shave heavily into the deficit.
Despite a couple of buckets from Doug McDermott, San Antonio ultimately was unable to withstand the anticipated fourth quarter push, spearheaded by the heady play of LeBron James and paint dominance from Anthony Davis (21 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks). The teams combined to shoot a horrid 18-for-67 (27 %) from distance, and it is worth noting that both teams had the same number of field goals made (40), but with the Spurs doing so with 16 more attempts.
- The Spurs were able to keep James sufficiently away enough from the all-time scoring record tonight (sic), but after a 44-point detonation last night against the Clippers, it was comforting to see San Antonio “contain” him to 20 points. Father Time is perhaps catching up to him, as he bumbled several lay-up attempts and lost possession at other times.
- Sochan confidently and smoothly releasing a three that finds it way home is becoming a much-more-normal thing now. Sochan using the threat of the long-range shot to set up his drives is an even more encouraging thing to see unfold!
- Zach Collins (16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) was “showing you different things in his game” as Bill Land noted, including a Timmy-esque left post banker. Collins against had a negative interaction with Russell Westbrook late in the first quarter - this time an unnecessary takedown by the Laker guard - which deservedly was upgraded to a Flagrant 1 foul. Collins effort stood out moreso in light of an uncharacteristic pedestrian game from Jakob Poeltl.
- Count me in the camp of “just don’t see it” with Hachimura. Analysts have lauded him for his size and versatility. But if there simply wasn’t enough for Washington to keep him in their long-term plans, then it’s fair to wonder whether he can move the needle in Los Angeles’ playoff push. Former Spur Lonnie Walker IV has been out with a lingering left knee injury. It would have been nice to see him in action against his former team.
- There have been several great adjectives assigned to Sochan’s improving and expanding game. One that I think is appropriate for him is “unflappable” as there do not seem to be many players or situations that faze him - botching a lay-up at the rim? Make the next play. Get blocked embarrassingly in the paint? Make the next play.
Play of the Game
Midway through the first period and late in the shot-clock, Keldon Johnson blew by his defender and euro-stepped into a gliding layup:
oh, that was nice pic.twitter.com/XSEuKdfdXW— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 26, 2023
Next game: vs. the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday
Pounders do not have to wait long to catch more Spurs road action tomorrow night versus Paul George and the LA Clippers.