Records: Lakers 11-44, Last in the West; Spurs 45-9, 2nd in the West
Offensive ratings: Lakers 97.5, 29th in NBA; Spurs 108.8, 3rd in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.2, Last in the NBA; Spurs 95.4, 1st in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Spurs: Parker, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Timmy
The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers’ have not played since last Wednesday. That game, a loss to the Cavs, was like so many other games the Lakers have played this year, it is sort of a blur. The Lakers go down big early, made a little run in garbage time to make the score look a bit more respectable, the end. Of the team’s 44 losses, I’d venture to guess more than a dozen of them have followed this format.
That, however, was 10 days ago. The team then went into the all-star break and while Kobe, Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell all made trips to Toronto to participate in various activities, this team got some much needed rest. Hopefully that rest doesn’t translate to too much rust, but we shall see tonight.
Beyond the fresher legs, the other good news is that Larry Nance is available to play tonight. And while he won’t get a full compliment of minutes, he will likely be the primary backup to Julius Randle at PF and, hopefully, play about 20 minutes tonight after a sore knee has kept him out for a few weeks. We will see if any other rotation adjustments are made, but my guess is we will see little of that tonight.
The Spurs Coming in: The Spurs returned from their all-star break a day earlier than the Lakers, facing off against the Clippers on Thursday. That game netted them only their 9th loss of the season, a game where they did not look good and missed Kawhi Leonard severely. Leonard will be out of tonight’s game as well, so the team will slide former Bruin Kyle Anderson into the starting lineup instead. Manu Ginobili — hurt before the break — is also still out so that lessens their wing depth overall.
Beyond missing Leonard and Manu, there’s really nothing new to say about the Spurs. They are a top team in the league and have quality players all over the floor. Their 2nd unit is fantastic at running the team’s ball movement heavy offense and it creates the types of open shots most team’s reserves simply aren’t capable of defending well enough to keep pace. Add in their strong defensive schemes and overall level of execution and you get the record they have.
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Keys to game: The Spurs did not look good against the Clippers on Thursday, but missing Kawhi and coming off a long rest with an aged roster on the road will tend to do that. Tonight I expect similar rust from the Lakers, but with fresher legs and a home crowd to help them along. How this translates to success remains to be seen since I think the rebounding battle and ability to get out and run will be balanced against some general sloppiness and suspect shot making.
It should also be noted that these teams played less than two weeks ago and the Lakers played them tough. That was with Kawhi (but without Duncan and Manu), so it’s tough to say how that result impacts this one. But the Lakers have been able to hang with the Spurs for longer stretches than expected so maybe this game will be close to.
I’d be lying if I said I wan’t doing anything more than guessing here, honestly. After such a long layoff anything could happen and I would not be surprised. Well, a Lakers’ win would surprise me, but a back and forth game that came down to the last 5 minutes would not. If the Lakers can get some second chance points, hit some threes, and get out in the open court they will be in business. If the Spurs are able to control in possession tempo and do their usual work off the dribble in order to create open three pointers, I see them pulling away at some point.
In other words, this game is worth watching just because there really is some unpredictableness to it. Add that this is the first game in 10 days and I think we’re all a bit thirsty for some Lakers’ hoops. Let’s go.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.