It wasn’t an easy win, but in the fourth the Lakers did just enough to come away victorious against the San Antonio Spurs and sweep the season series, the first time the Lakers have done so since the 1997-98 season. And with a 113-104 victory on the night of Anthony Davis’ return and Rui Hachimura’s debut, the Lakers improved to 23-26 on the season.
Davis scored 21 points in 26 minutes off the bench, his first off the bench since 2013. Patrick Beverley had a productive night, scoring 18 points on 50% shooting, and LeBron James came up short of a triple-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists.
One Laker scored the team’s first six points to start the game. That player was Beverley. After last night’s game where it felt like LeBron was the only one getting it going offensively, tonight there was a lot more balance on offense.
But while the offense might have been balanced, the defense was lacking. San Antonio went on a 13-1 run midway through the first to take the lead. Then at the 4:22 mark, Davis finally returned from injury and Hachimura made his debut for the purple and gold. There were no early fireworks from the pair as neither made a field goal in the first frame and the Lakers trailed by five after the first 12 minutes.
But when the rust was worn off, AD got going in the second. He scored five straight to start the second and scored 10 in the quarter. Meanwhile, Rui finally made his first field goal in the second with a nice three and the Lakers closed out the half on a 7-0 run with LeBron, Russ and AD finally playing well together.
LA started the second half well. Pat Bev followed up her fantastic performance in the first half with an equally good second place; he did everything but sell popcorn on Wednesday. He hit threes, grabbed rebounds and made the occasional hockey assist, helping the Lakers go on a 13-4 run midway through the third.
However, these Lakers can never shut anyone down early.
San Antonio went on a 12-0 run as the Lakers defended the three poorly in transition and gave up easy layup after easy layup. Keldon Johnson benefited from this lack of defensive focus and finished the night with 25 point.
“Let’s see what mentality this Laker group has when this fourth quarter starts.” These were the words of Lakers broadcaster Stu Lantz as the game entered the final 12 minutes.
The response from the Lakers was appropriate.
They went on an 11-0 run that featured a pair of threes from James and Max Christie and an exclamation point dunk from Thomas Bryant. The rest of the fourth was smooth sailing for the purple and gold as they outscored San Antonio 32-22 in the fourth.
Davis had flashes of brilliance with some nice blocks and dunks, Rui (12 points and 6 rebounds on 4-7 shooting) looked nervous but serviceable, and the Lakers are slowly and surely moving in the right direction.
The main negative today was that Wenyen Gabriel was the victim of AD’s return. He averages 16 minutes a game and was on his way to a Coach’s Decision (DNP) CD until he got 45 seconds of playing time in garbage time tonight. It wasn’t a popular pick on Twitter, and potentially unwise given the lack of depth this team has at the 4 and 5 spots.
Still, it’s better to win with problems than lose because of them, so hopefully Darvin Ham can find out when the Lakers head east to play their rivals, the Boston Celtics, on Saturday.
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