San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Three Takeaways

Patty Mills, DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs react during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 22, 2018 at STAPLES Center (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Patty Mills, DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs react during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 22, 2018 at STAPLES Center (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Patty Mills, DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs react during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 22, 2018 at STAPLES Center (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Patty Mills, DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs react during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 22, 2018 at STAPLES Center (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs escaped Staples Center with a 143-142 overtime victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

At many points during the night, hope looked lost for the San Antonio Spurs. A LeBron James three-pointer sent the game to overtime with just 2.4 seconds in the fourth quarter as the cap to an 8-0 run. The extra period began with missed free throws and multiple buckets for the Lakers.

A clutch pull up jumper from guard Patty Mills sealed the game with just seven seconds left in overtime.

142. 20. 143. 29.

It was a career night for All Star DeMar DeRozan, who set a new career-high in assists with 14 in the contest. He finished with a loaded stat line of 32 points, eight rebounds and one steal in 45 minutes of play. DeRozan is highly motivated to start the season and it’s shown on the hardwood.

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Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge had an incredibly successful night of his own. He finished with 37 points on 13-of-22 shooting to go with 10 boards. As usual, Aldridge drew fouls on multiple defenders and earned 11 of his points from the charity stripe.

The thrilling victory marks the Spurs first road victory of the season. Tides of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have shifted from last season, as the Spurs lost their previous three games against Los Angeles.

This was an important statement victory for head coach Gregg Popovich and his ball club. To enter enemy territory with a diminished backcourt and take on James and his crew is huge for the franchise.

Here are some of the key takeaways from tonight’s game.

Next: DeMar DeRozan is the real deal

DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images) /

DeMar DeRozan is the real deal

Let’s be honest, many Spurs fans weren’t sure what to expect when it was announced that DeMar DeRozan would head to the Alamo City. He’s a perennial All Star and led Toronto to the first seed in the eastern conference, but suffered a public meltdown at the hands of James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

That’s not the DeMar DeRozan that we’ve seen in San Antonio thus far. This version of DeMar is cool, calm and collected. He’s got a steady head on his shoulders and has done an excellent job of fulfilling the duties assigned to him by Popovich.

Relive the wild OT finish between the @spurs & @Lakers, as DeRozan & LeBron each tally for 32 PTS, 14 ASTS, & 8 REBS. pic.twitter.com/PCNiz41gWn

— NBA (@NBA) October 23, 2018

He finished with a full stat line headlined by his career-high of 14 assists. With the absence of San Antonio’s point guard rotation, DeRozan has had no trouble finding his teammates and orchestrating the offense regardless of who he shares the floor with.

Many speculated that the transition into San Antonio’s system would be a difficult adjustment for the two-time All-NBA selection. Popovich runs a very specific scheme and is known to teach players through the merits of tough love. So far, the transition into this new era has been smooth sailing for all parties involved.

There are still lots of kinks to work out for all parties involved. The team’s defense is still in question and DeMar has a large part to do in that. Still, he’s shown effort and has been active in passing lanes thus far. Los Angeles took advantage of the defensive issues formulated by running a guard rotation of Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and DeRozan.

Of course, the Los Angeles native had to show out for his hometown.

Next: Poor defense makes you pay

The San Antonio Spurs players strategize (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The San Antonio Spurs players strategize (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Poor defense makes you pay

It was a very rough night for the Spurs from a defensive standpoint. Regardless of their perceived shortcomings, the Lakers are a perimeter-oriented team. The sophomore duo of Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma, two players who operate primarily from outside the perimeter, combined for 57 points including seven three-pointers in the contest.

While it’s true that Patty Mills can perform well in a team-based defense, the Spurs are lacking the skill and personnel to lock teams down the way they did last season. This is to be expected when you lose your three best perimeter defenders in the offseason, but there’s a higher level of basketball to be played here.

As time goes on, Popovich will make the necessary adjustments to help the team improve on this side of the ball. Rotations will be made and players will learn to rely on each other. To truly compete against teams such as Golden State and even these Lakers, San Antonio needs to develop this defensive mentality. Winning basketball is produced with effort on both ends, not just on offense.

Allowing Los Angeles to score 142 points is disappointing but allowing them to do so without two starters in forward Brandon Ingram and point guard Rajon Rondo is unacceptable for a team that wants to compete for a championship this year. The Lakers made 36.7 percent of their 39 attempts from behind the arc in the contest.

Times heals all wounds, but it’ll take a concerted effort from each and every player to make a defensive difference.

Next: Dante Cunningham is more important than we thought

Dante Cunningham of the San Antonio Spurs defends LeBron James (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Dante Cunningham of the San Antonio Spurs defends LeBron James (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Dante Cunningham is more important than we thought

The risk behind adding veteran small forward Dante Cunningham to the roster was very low for San Antonio. For a small chunk of change, the multi-positioned journeyman could provide veteran leadership and backup minutes as needed.

It was a move that was simultaneously smart and underwhelming to the general public. Despite fouling out, tonight proved why Cunningham’s addition is crucial to the team’s success than initially anticipated.

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Popovich’s decision to start Cunningham over center Jakob Poeltl tonight was considered questionable by spectators, but it worked out pretty well. He finished with a stat line of 3 points to go with 12 rebounds and 2 steals. He was active on the defensive end, often matched up against LeBron James.

On paper, Cunningham is the only Spur that can conceivably defend James based on physical attributes and toughness. He used his strength and sound defensive instincts to limit James whenever the two matched up. In the first half, Cunningham held the four-time Most Valuable Player to just four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field.

For the Spurs to reach their goals in a highly competitive western conference, they’ll need to be adaptable. Lineups aren’t concrete and rotations are fluid for Popovich and his staff. Cunningham creates a new dynamic that the team is sorely lacking as a versatile stretch four with the ability to defend forwards.

There’s really no such thing as stopping LeBron James, but you can certainly limit his production. James still managed to put up his fair share of counting stats, but it’s not inconceivable that Popovich has slowly but surely figured out how to strategize against James.

After three duels in the Finals and countless regular season showdowns, Popovich is always ready to guide his team against ‘the King.’ Now that James has made his way to the west, Cunningham will play an important role in slowing him down.

Next. Bold predictions for the 2018-19 season

The Spurs will return to San Antonio when the Indiana Pacers visit on Wednesday evening.

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