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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Spurs face another tall task trying to end their losing streak.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Riding a franchise record 17-game losing streak, the Spurs return home desperate to experience the sweet taste of victory again, but it won’t come easy as they stare down a home-home miniseries against the inaugural In-Season Tournament champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs have suffered through every conceivable type of loss during their streak, ranging from wire-to-wire blowouts to blown double-digit leads, to defensive slugfests and offensive shootouts.

Will they finally be able to put together a complete enough game to end the losing streak, or a will a Lakers team featuring veteran stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis add to their misery?

San Antonio Spurs (3-19) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (14-10)

December 13, 2023 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports, NBA TV | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: Charles Bassey (out — knee); Charles Bediako (out —G League); Sidy Cissoko (out — G League); Sir’Jabari Rice (out — G League)

Lakers injuries: LeBron James (questionable — calf); Anthony Davis (questionable — hip); Gabe Vincent (out — knee); Jarred Vanderbilt (questionable — back); Jalen Hood-Schifino (out — G League)

What to Watch For

Las Vegas Hangover?

The Lakers’ injury report is for last night’s game against the Mavericks, and because this is a back-to-back for them, they don’t have to release an injury report until this afternoon. That being said, they’re coming off a big weekend in Las Vegas, winning the first ever In-Season Tournament. While they likely shook off most of the hangover in Dallas, the injury report still suggests some resting may be in order, and “rest rules” suggest they would be more inclined to do so against the Spurs since it’s not a nationally televised game. It’s hard to know who will play today — James and Davis both played last night — but the Spurs will take any little advantage they can get.

Finding a way to perform on both ends

In two of their last three games, the Spurs have done something we’ve rarely seen this season: play decent defense, allowing just 102 points to the Timberwolves and 93 points to the Rockets. For a team that averages nearly 110 points per game themselves, that should be good enough to win at least one win, right? The problem is, in both those games, they weren’t able to replicate their success on defense to offense, putting up equally as inept shooting numbers as their opponents.

Conversely, in games where they have had good shooting nights, they also couldn’t stop the opponent (see their 135-137 loss to the Hawks). Lately, the Spurs’ offensive success has come at home while the defense shows up on the road, so they need to find a way to bring both in the same game. (Of note, the Lakers are the 6th worst three-point shooting team in the league, but the second best shooting overall. Maybe that's an advantage to the Spurs’ style of defense since giving up open threes is one of their biggest weaknesses? I’ll go knock on wood now.)

THIRD. QUARTERS.

The batter head of the drum has been practically beaten all the way through at this point, but the Spurs HAVE to start showing up after halftime. At this point, the most predictable thing about this team is they are destined for a third quarter meltdown, and on the rare occasion that it doesn’t come then, it comes soon enough in the fourth. It’s like clockwork, and it has cost them many double-digit leads (and likely wins) this season. In fact, let’s revisit Monday’s power rankings from NBA.com:

...the Spurs are now 1-9 in games they’ve led by double-digits, having blown a 13-point lead to the Bulls on Friday. In the 27 previous seasons for which we have play-by-play data, the worst record in games led by double-digits was 5-9, by the 2011-12 Bobcats, who had the worst overall record in NBA history (7-59). The Spurs and Lakers, who are 9-1, have led the same number of games by double-digits this season.

So the Spurs are 1-9 when leading by double digits, while tonight’s opponent is 9-1. So not only can the Spurs not let the Lakers get out ahead if they want to win, but they also can’t melt down and relinquish the lead because the Lakers have the veteran and star power to hold them off. We keep saying it, but the Spurs must play a compete 48 minutes on both ends of the court if they want to win again, and there’s no better time than the present.


For the Lakers fans’ perspective, visit Silver Screen and Roll.

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