San Antonio/LA Lakers: Lakers close out the Spurs late 113-104

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Spurs hung tough with their opponent for three quarters, but mistakes and turnovers late turned the fourth quarter into a recurring nightmare as the Spurs couldn’t get baskets and/or stops when they needed them in clutch time. There was a lot to be proud of for the young Silver and Black squad as they played even with the talented Lakers for much of the game, but the Anthony Davis and LeBron James took over for the Tinseltown gladiators as they took over late and sealed the win in convincing fashion.

The key play of the game wasn’t in the fourth, but just before it, as Zach Collins fouled Anthony Davis with just .02 seconds left in the quarter and gave the Lakers momentum going into the final quarter with three free throws. Costly mistakes like that are kind of the hallmark of this season for the Silver and Black, but some positives we can take from tonight’s game is that the Spurs defense was improved tonight, holding the Lakers to an anemic (by today’s standards) 113 points and got solid performances from Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan, and are still on track for one of the top picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

Game Flow

The Spurs opened the game with a triple from Mr. Automatic, Jeremy Sochan, who has hit six three-point shots in a row. The Spur defense actually showed up tonight in the first quarter, and they kept the quarter from becoming a shooting exhibition which has been a common sight in Spurs games this season, leading 30-25 after the first 12 minutes.

The Silver and Black found the range to start the second as the Spurs got their first double digit lead on a Keita Bates-Diop triple assisted by Tre Jones. Meanwhile, LeBron attacked the basket like a runaway freight train, shoving Jakob out of the way like a leaf in a strong wind. Mixed metaphor, I know, but he got to the hoop with very little resistance. The Spurs kept themselves in contention by limiting the other Lakers players, but they faded at the tail end of the quarter, and a 7-1 run by LA had them trailing 54-53 at the half.

The Spurs margin of error was small, and turnovers gave the Lakers opportunities to cut into the lead. And when Patrick Beverley starts hitting three-point shots, maybe it isn’t your night, as he put LA in the lead with a triple and a driving layup. The Spurs answered with an 8 point streak of their own, retaking the lead midway through the quarter, capped by a thunderous putback of a Josh Richardson miss. The Spurs shaky ball control cost them opportunities to take control of the game. The mistakes continued to mount, as Zach Collins committed a flagrant on Anthony Davis with 0.2 seconds left in the quarter to allow LA to cut the lead to a single point, 82-81.

The final quarter started with a seesaw battle between the teams, with physical play on both ends, and a block by Dennis Schroeder on Jakob Poeltl, which isn’t something you’d ever expect to see. The Lakers finally took a substantial lead on a trio of triples from Lebron, Schroeder, and Christie, followed by a Bryant dunk for their biggest lead of the game of 10. The Spurs righted the ship for most of the rest of the quarter, but were unable to erase the lead as LA won 113-104.

Observations

  • Why are there 9:30 PM start times? On this flat earth, time zones shouldn’t exist.
  • Pat Beverley is proof that if you’re ornery enough, you can play in the NBA with less than elite talent.
  • This Los Angeles squad isn’t just LeBron, Russ and Anthony Davis. They have surrounded their big three with a motley crew of role players who play hard and have some talent. Troy Brown looks solid, and Dennis Schroeder can really score. Beverley is an instigator who competes his heart out, and with the addition of Rui Hachimura, they should be in the midst of the western conference playoff standings.
  • It’s really great to see Malaki Branham’s confidence grow game by game. He’s on a trajectory to becoming a really good scorer.
  • Russell Westbrook will eventually be in the Hall of Fame, but nobody misses like him. He’s the king of spectacular misses, with one of his shots caroming high off the backboard and missing the hoop by at least two feet on a layup attempt. He also committed an inexplicable flagrant foul on Zach Collins with a football tackle which may have been payback from an unintentional hit to the Russ’s face in the previous game.
  • I love how indomitable Jeremy Sochan is. He can get blocked twice in a row, and he just keeps going up with the ball and makes it work. He makes mistakes, and he keeps playing hard and making up for them. He’s got a little bit of Manu in him. Maybe more than a little bit.
  • The Spurs halfcourt defense looks much better than I’ve seen in a while, but their propensity for live turnovers creates too many easy scoring opportunities for their opponents. The Lakers poor fast break execution made it less painful than it could have been, but it still was costly for the Spurs.
  • Josh Richardson has been a veteran presence on the team, but his shot was off early tonight, and he kept shooting. He finally got one to fall in the third quarter, and that sparked a Silver and Black run to retake the lead.
  • When Bally Sports first took over the Spurs broadcasts, they were pretty shaky. While they still have technical weaknesses, like the game a few weeks ago where they lost the audio for much of the game, they have been much improved this year. The broadcasts just look better, and even the filler content and little bump videos between shots are well done.
  • LeBron James scored 20 points tonight and needs 158 more to pass Kareem.
  • The Lakers have won all 4 matchups against the Spurs, completing the season sweep.

For the Lakers fans’ perspective, please visit Silver Screen and Roll. The Spurs are staying in Tinseltown tonight for another game in Crypto.com Arena tomorrow night, same bat time same bat channel, this time against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.

The Spurs are currently stuck in 14th place the western conference, and still on course for a 14% chance at the top pick in the 2023 NBA draft. They are currently fourth from the bottom in wins, but the Rockets are hungry.

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