The Los Angeles Lakers played a game in some of the worst, emotional conditions you can imagine on Friday, ultimately losing 127-119 to the Portland Trail Blazers in their first game since Kobe Bryant’s death. Following their second loss in a row, the Lakers won the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday, beating the Sacramento Kings 129-113. For a night that included a tribute to Kobe as well as multiple “Kobe” chants from the away crowd, things seemed somewhat back to normal in regards to the emotions of the game.
They’ll look to continue to return to that normalcy as much as they can, as they will be welcoming their rivals into town, the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs experiencing a down season
The Spurs come into this game at 22-27, currently sitting at 10th in the Western Conference. They haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season, but that streak is in danger this season as they’ve dropped off a bit while nearly every team in front of them has experienced slight or drastic improvements.
Part of the reason for their recent regression is a rare, disappointing Spurs defense under head coach Gregg Popovich. According to Basketball Reference, the Spurs currently have a 112.3 Defensive Rating. If that rate stays its course all the way until the end of the season, it would be the team’s worst DRTG since, you guessed it, the 1996-97 season.
LeBron James could potentially have another huge game
The last time that the Lakers and Spurs played was in San Antonio in late November. The Lakers won 114-104, but were actually down by two points at halftime. The 12-point swing can mostly be attributed to LeBron Raymone James, who ended the game with 33 points and 14 assists.
He especially excelled in the Lakers’ fourth quarter, dropping 12 of his 33 points in the final frame. LeBron was hitting from deep in the quarter, making three of his total four threes while helping the Lakers finally pull away in the Alamo.
The Spurs don’t really have a solid answer defensively for LeBron James the way they do for Anthony Davis with LaMarcus Aldridge. They may like to put the long Rudy Gay on LeBron, but he doesn’t play much due to his old age and if DeMar DeRozan is on ‘Bron? Forget about it. LeBron will get another game similar to his last one against the Spurs.
The Spurs will be playing this game as the second night of an L.A. back-to-back after losing a close contest against the Los Angeles Clippers last night. Look for the Lakers to take advantage of that at 7:00 p.m. PST.