The West Coast road trip is finally over for the San Antonio Spurs, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. For starters, they were missing key pieces, including head coach Gregg Popovich on this particular evening. On top of that, the young squad was outmatched in talent and experience as they finished the five-game road series 0-5, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night 123-92.
It will surely be a long flight back to the Alamo City before they settle in for a trio of home games over the Thanksgiving holiday week. The Spurs (6-12) are at a crucial point of frustration where the losses are stacking up and can either crush their spirits or be a trial from which they grow for the future. Only time will tell.
Devin Vassell led San Antonio with 17 points in the losing effort while Charles Bassey paced the team with eight rebounds and five assists. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis put on another stellar performance, covering for LeBron James who is still dealing with a groin injury. Davis recorded game-highs with 30 points and 18 rebounds while being a menace on the defensive end as well. Off the bench, Russell Westbrook led both teams with 10 assists and was one of seven Los Angeles players to score in the double digits.
A Night Worth Forgetting for the San Antonio Spurs
There are losses where a team defeats themselves and they can watch the game tape and do better next time. Then there are losses like San Antonio suffered to the Lakers (5-10) where no amount of analyzing the film would make a difference. The team struggled to get any shots to drop, shooting 39 percent from the floor on 105 attempts. For the second consecutive night, the Spurs were horrible from beyond the arc, hitting just 20 percent from deep. On the boards, at the free-throw line, and even in the turnover margin, they were thoroughly out-played. Though the team was without Popovich and starting center Jakob Poeltl, the outcome likely wouldn’t have been different.
From a player standpoint, it just wasn’t Keldon Johnson’s night, and that has a major impact on the rest of the team. One of the NBA’s best three-point shooters this season, Johnson connected on just one of his 10 attempts from the perimeter and four of his 20 shots from the floor in general, totaling 12 points on the night. He was a near non-factor elsewhere on the floor, contributing just three rebounds and one assist despite playing a team-high 31 minutes as acting head coach Brett Brown allowed the team’s leader to work through his struggles.
The Los Angeles Lakers Are Starting to Build Momentum While LeBron Recovers
After looking like a mess to start the season, the Lakers have won three straight games, and are doing so without one of the greatest players ever. In the absence of James, Davis has taken over and did so again against the Spurs. He started out hot, scoring 18 of his 30 points in the game’s first 15 minutes as Los Angeles built a 14-point lead, 34-20. That allowed the rest of the team to play without pressure, and a number of players went off.
Austin Reaves recorded 21 points, including 12 from three-point range, and backup center Thomas Bryant benefitted from San Antonio’s lack of depth, nearly recording a double-double off the bench. Lonnie Walker IV showed out with 14 points against his former team, including a few highlight-worthy drives to the basket. The Lakers got physical with the Spurs and it paid off for them via trips to the free-throw line. From the charity stripe, Los Angeles shot 87.5 percent, out-scoring San Antonio 21-3 in that area alone. Still, it wasn’t all good for the home team as they still have things to clean up. They too had a relatively poor night from beyond the arc, shooting just 35 percent. The 15 turnovers are something that better opponents will take advantage of as well.
Up Next for the San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio has two days off as they get set to return to the AT&T Center on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. As of Sunday night, the Pelicans (9-7) have won three of their last five, though they play the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. The return of Zion Williamson has been big for New Orleans this season and he has fit in well with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. They are sixth in the league in scoring (116.3ppg) and field goal percentage (48.1), and currently sit in the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Though the Spurs haven’t played well at home (3-5), they did take down a depleted Milwaukee Bucks squad in San Antonio just before taking the trip out West. Still, that was their first home victory since closing out the month of October with a pair of wins in front of their fans. With a couple of days to rest up and get healthy, the Spurs will look to snap their five-game losing streak.