For the first time this season, the Lakers concocted a three-game winning streak. Los Angeles defeated the San Antonio Spurs 93-81, giving the team their 15th loss. The Spurs are currently second in the Western Conference; the loss gives them a 10-13 road record.
Forward Brandon Ingram racked up 26 points and guard Lonzo Ball secured 10 rebounds. Stalwart forward LeMarcus Aldridge scored 20 points and former Laker Pau Gasol led with 12 rebounds.
Veteran guard Tony Parker was out with an ankle injury, Rudy Gay did not play due to a sore right heel. A groin injury would sideline Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard was also out because of a left shoulder strain.
Forward Kyle Kuzma, who leads the Lakers with 16.9 points per game, has been recently tasked to aide other teammates in scoring. Throughout the night, he was matched to defend Gasol, an integral member of the franchise’s last two championships.
“He’s so skilled, he’s been in the league for so many years, he’s still effective,” Kuzma said. “He’s still a handful.”
The Purple and Gold enforced a high level of defense with 15 steals, five coming from guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Los Angeles outscored San Antonio 17-2 in second chance points.
“That was a pathetic performance by our team,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “We got close a couple of times, but then we would turn it over some more due to [the Lakers’] defensive pressure.”
The Lakers had competitive energy early in the game, ending the first quarter with a 20-15 advantage. This lead did not come easy, as the Lakers suffered early fouls and poor perimeter shooting. The reliable forward Brandon Ingram landed nine points.
San Antonio hit a slump on offense for the first four minutes of the second quarter. In that time, the Lakers made a nine-point surge. Two-time NBA champion Gasol made clever passes which resulted in points. He set up forward LeMarcus Aldridge for an alley-oop, edging up their score while earning three assists. Aldridge scored eight points and Ingram secured nine in the period.
“I don’t know if guys expected this team just to fall and go through the motions,” Gasol said. “They rushed us, we tried to keep up with their pace and play at the same pace that they were.”
San Antonio made a comeback briefly after halftime by reducing their deficit to three points. Ingram and Caldwell-Pope edged the score up with a three-pointer each. Los Angeles kept their lead and forced turnovers. Spurs icon Manu Ginobili returned to the hardwood to enforce a five-point run, bringing San Antonio within six points.
The Lakers were doing a better job with ball movement, according to Caldwell-Pope.
“We knew they was gonna do a lot of stop and rolls,” he said. “[I am] just trying to be the energy guy, trying to get everybody else to be the same.”
A dunk from forward Larry Nance Jr. gave the Lakers a 10-point advantage. Spurs backcourt players went on a 7-0 run during the fourth quarter to close the margin to two points. Caldwell-Pope and Nance Jr. caught one Spurs pass each, scoring four quick points; The Lakers were ahead 81-75 with 5:23 left in regulation. The defensive effort continued; Nance jr blocked a shot by Gasol, Caldwell-Pope and Jordan Clarkson combined for five steals in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Larry’s play, from the first time he checked in, to leaving him in for the entire rest of the of the second half, he was putting out fires on defense,” Walton said. “He was guarding bigger players, just all over the place.”
The Lakers go on a three-game road trip, starting with the Dallas Mavericks on January 13 at 11:00 A.M. PST.