The San Antonio Spurs pay LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers a visit at the Staples Center Monday night before heading back to the Alamo City.
The San Antonio Spurs look to shake off a 121-108 loss to the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday night as the team travels to Los Angeles to take on LeBron James and the win-less Lakers. The Western Conference is as deep and competitive as it’s ever been and these two teams will no doubt be among the last few fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the year.
James’ LA debut on Saturday night was dwarfed by a physical altercation between Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram that resulted in all three players being ejected and subsequently suspended. Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has been suspended for three games and Ingram also received a four-game suspension. With the Lakers missing two key contributors on their offense the Spurs will look to capitalize against a depleted LA bench and bounce back from Saturday night’s loss.
Date: Monday, Oct. 22
Time: 9:30 p.m. CST
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Venue: Staples Center
TV Info: NBA TV, FSSW
Streaming: NBA League Pass, fuboTV
Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan continues to impress for the Silver and Black, posting yet another 28-point performance against the Trailblazers on 50 percent shooting. What’s even more impressive is DeRozan’s impact as a passer; DD dished out nine assists Saturday night and through the Spurs’ first two games is averaging 6.5 assists.
The injuries to Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker have forced the Spurs to play point guard by committee with Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and DeRozan. Don’t be surprised if Pop decides to let DeRozan operate more as the primary ball handler on offense this year. Last season with Toronto, DeRozan averaged 5.2 assists, more than any player on the Spurs roster from last year (Tony Parker led the team with 3.5 APG).
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) October 21, 2018
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For the Spurs, the game plan against the Lakers is straightforward but easier said than done: contain James and force the other Lakers to beat them. James has impressed as always, averaging 25 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists through his first two games donning the purple and gold.
With Ingram out of the lineup, expect Kyle Kuzma to get more burn and potentially draw the start tomorrow. In addition, Summer League MVP Josh Hart will look to build off of his hot start to the season and should also see more court time at the point guard position during Rondo’s absence.
This Lakers team is an interesting combination of exciting youngsters and quirky veterans and many have had their doubts about how effectively this group of players is going to mesh. While they have had their bright spots at times, this Lakers team, much like the Spurs, is still figuring out how to fit all these new pieces together. The suspensions of Rondo and Ingram will only deter the gelling process for this team, giving the Spurs a promising matchup to exploit a struggling team’s weaknesses.
What to expect
To the surprise of many, the Spurs are ranked fourth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (43.6 percent). With the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green plus the addition of mid-range guru DeRozan, the Spurs were not expected to be a team that relies on the three-point shot as a critical aspect of their game.
While I don’t expect that this iteration of the Spurs offense will ever be a high-volume shooting team like the Houston Rockets or the Golden State Warriors, I do believe that the emphasis will be on unselfish ball movement to set up open shooters for high-percentage opportunities. Thus far, the trend has been quality over quantity and I expect that pattern to continue throughout the season.
Bryn Forbes’ Progression
Before the season started the Spurs had a logjam at the guard position and it was unclear where exactly Forbes fit into that rotation. However, with the slew of injuries to the Spurs guards, Forbes now finds himself as the starting point guard for the team.
While there have been some growing pains as he attempts to navigate the intricacies of the offense, look for Forbes to continue to gain confidence as he becomes more and more comfortable at the helm.