So it was really cool to see Tim Duncan and David Robinson duel it out with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant… wait a minute. Let me start over.
The Lakers fell short against the Spurs, 116-107. But it’s not like the Lakers laid down against the very strong San Antonio Spurs. Even when the Spurs shot lights out, the Lakers once again showed their fighting spirit. And every team that has gone against them has to be frustrated that this young team just won’t go away.
The team didn’t exactly get off to a sparkling start; they fell behind, 9-0, and wouldn’t score their first basket until about four minutes into the game. They seemed out of sorts with D’Angelo Russell not playing (a late scratch with a sore knee). Jose Calderon started to not upset Luke Walton’s regular rotations and he played 13 minutes and scored five points. San Antonio led by as many as 13 points in the first half before Lou Williams, Luol Deng, and Nick Young provided the offense the Lakers needed. While the Spurs were making nearly everything, the young Lakers forced some turnovers (Spurs had 9 of their 12 turnovers in the first half) to make up for it. They would eventually tie the game at 52 after two quarters.
But the Spurs couldn’t stop missing. San Antonio made 11 straight field goals and went on a 12-0 surge. They would lead the Lakers by 17 early in the fourth. L.A. wouldn’t die, though, as they cut the lead down to 5 with seven minutes left.
LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points) would land haymakers on the Lakers as he made three straight buckets. A Kawhi Leonard (23-12-7) three would boost the lead to 11. But back-to-back threes by Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson quickly cut the deficit to five (a Julius Randle foul shot would cut it to four). San Antonio would have the last laugh, though, as Tony Parker (who went old-school with 16 points and 7 assists) made a clutch jumper to boost the lead from four to six. That’s some TP for your bunghole.
It’s encouraging for the Lakers to play like this, even in a loss. The Spurs shot 56 percent (Lakers were under 45 percent) from the field and dissected the Lakers defense with their trademark passing; they had 30 dimes in the game. But the Lakers fought back every single time (until time ran out), seemingly getting every loose ball and making a counterpunch when they were in the corner. The Lakers outboarded the Spurs, 45-34, and pummeled them on the offensive boards, 15-3. Lakers also won the battle in paint scoring, 36-28, since the Spurs don’t have great interior defense anymore. But the Spurs just overwhelmed them with their smarts and experience.
I can’t say enough on how good Lou Williams and Nick Young have been this season. Williams wasn’t all that great defensively but his quick and efficient scoring (24 points) made up for it. Young made some big shots and had 22 points. Clarkson had a big second half and had 20 points overall. Luol Deng played his best ball as a Laker in the first half (10 points then but nothing after). Julius Randle put in a quiet 13-9-7 line.
It’s the same ol’ slow start for the Lakers but also the same ol’ strong finish. A lot had to go right for the Lakers to beat the Spurs and they nearly did it. Can’t say enough about their fighting spirit.
Let’s see if that fight carries over for the 7-6 Lakers in their next game against the hot Chicago Bulls on Sunday at Staples.