The Los Angeles Lakers won the first leg of their double-header in San Antonio on Wednesday, beating the Spurs 121 to 107 in their final game of 2020. The Lakers were in control much of the game, never relinquishing the lead after the five-minute mark of the first quarter, but they were never able to push their lead to more than 18 to truly feel comfortable.
LeBron James led the way with 26 points and eight assists while Anthony Davis had a bounceback game after a poor showing against the Blazers, registering 20 points and eight rebounds, as well as his first two blocks of the NBA season. Dennis Schroder scored 21 while three other Lakers – Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – scored in double digits. The Spurs wer eled by 29 points from Dejounte Murry and 23 from DeMar DeRozan.
Player of the game – Wesley Matthews
It’s been a rough start to Wesley Matthews’ Lakers career but the shooting guard finally broke through on Wednesday. Matthews hit all six of his attempts from deep – his only shots for the game – after missing his first 14 3-point attempts this year. That tied Nick Van Exel for the second-most made threes without a miss in Lakers’ franchise history, one behind Kobe Bryant’s seven makes in 2006.
Matthews looked generally more comfortable in the flow of the Lakers’ offense, getting to proper spots to take advantage of the attention placed on his teammates. Performances like this are why the Lakers prioritized signing the former Bucks’ guard and why he can be a major contributor for this team on both ends of the floor as long as his shot is falling with some consistency.
Stat of the game – 46 Points in the Paint
That’s the number of points the Lakers scored in the paint but also the number of points the Spurs scored in the paint. In fact, 18 of the Spurs’ first 19 points came in the point (the other was a free throw from an and-one layup). It took until 3:07 remaining in the first quarter for San Antonio to finally score outside the paint on a Rudy Gay triple.
The lack of rim protection has been an issue for the Lakers in the early going this season, averaging 49.6 points conceded in the paint per game. It’s hard to pinpoint one particular cause for this; they clearly miss some rim protection with the departures of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard but that has been catalyzed with poor perimeter defense and a ton of turnovers (17 against the Spurs). It’s nothing to completely worry about yet with the team still clearly finding their sea legs alongside each other, but it certainly is a trend to keep an eye on.
Quote of the night – “That’s a disgusting statistic.” – Wesley Matthews
Wesley Matthews is all of us after being informed that LeBron just reached the milestone of 1,000 straight games with at least 10 points. James’ consistency throughout his 18-year career and his fortune (aided by an obsessive work ethic and attention to detail) to not suffer many significant injuries is something that even other world-class athletes like Matthews marvel at.
On Friday, the Spurs host the Lakers again as part of the NBA’s plan to limit travel as much as possible during the ongoing pandemic. Alex Caruso will once again not play as he is under the NBA’s health and safety protocol (though the league basically confirmed he has not tested positive for COVID). It’s not clear if LaMarcus Aldridge will return to the Spurs’ lineup.
Two years ago I was amongst the many who wondered why Pope ever saw the floor. However, starting in the playoffs, he has become the lakers third best player. He can pass, shoot, and it their scrappiest defender who isn’t bald. He gets his pelvis up in their crotch and keeps it there. He dives for loose balls and chases down fastbreakers for the block. He rarely makes mistakes. Hey fellow fanatics, let’s pay attention then give this dud some love.
It would be fun to see a footrace between him and the Speeding Bullet.