For the second time in five days, the San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The San Antonio Spurs have a chance to take a commanding lead in the season series against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. After pulling out a 143-142 overtime victory at the Staples Center, they’ll play the second game of a three-game homestand.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Location: San Antonio, TX
Venue: AT&T Center
TV Info: KENS
Streaming: NBA League Pass, fuboTV
Through the long and grueling marathon in Monday night’s meeting, All Star DeMar DeRozan solidified his place as one of the conference’s fiercest competitors while going head-to-head with the new face of Los Angeles. LeBron James has caused problems for DeMar in the past, but he’s ready to move past that as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
It’s no secret that head coach Gregg Popovich has had sustained success containing James in the past. To be fair, truly “containing” LeBron is rare, but limiting his efficiency and capitalizing on his weaknesses have made the Spurs one of his greatest roadblocks.
San Antonio won both games against Cleveland last season on two fantastic performances from power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. During his two matchups against Cleveland last season, Aldridge scored 30 points in the first meeting and 27 in the second. This scoring output was a fairly regular occurrence for Aldridge last season, as his pristine scoring kept San Antonio afloat throughout the regular season.
For the Spurs to defend their home floor against James and the Lakers, they’ll need to dictate the pace of the game and regain their defensive identity.
Next: Dictating pace and containing LeBron
Dictating pace and containing LeBron
Though there have only been five games, the Los Angeles Lakers have proven that they’re a fast-paced team. With a young core comprised of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, it’s not surprise that they’ve adapted a run and gun play style.
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Up to this point, the Lakers rank fourth in the league in PACE at 107.7, just 0.18 behind the second ranked Kings and 0.10 behind the third ranked Wizards. On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs rank dead last in the NBA in PACE at 97.10.
With that in mind, it’s miraculous that they were able to keep up at Staples Center. Throughout the NBA, teams are scoring at an unprecedented level. Though it’s only been a short while, the league seems to be playing faster and scoring more efficiently than in recent years. It’s nice to know that these Spurs can keep up with the trend and pull out close games.
Still, Popovich and the team can put themselves in a better position to win by dictating the pace of the game. Fundamental ball movement and efficient play is the bread and butter of the San Antonio Spurs and could do numbers against L.A.’s boom-or-bust cast of role players.
Once the game slows down, the Spurs can better defend the perimeter and switch onto ball handlers more easily. At that point, the combination of Dante Cunningham, LaMarcus Aldridge and anyone else with a chance to help will focus on guarding LeBron.
One particular Laker could cause problems at a slower pace — Rajon Rondo, who returns to the lineup on Saturday evening.
Next: A battle of great basketball minds
A battle of great basketball minds
As if this defensive assignment wouldn’t be difficult enough for guard Bryn Forbes, the infamous Rajon Rondo will return to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension for his fight with Houston’s Chris Paul last Saturday.
Interestingly enough, this matchup will showcase three particularly extraordinary basketball minds with James and Rondo teaming up against Pop.
It’s not like Popovich is going to lace up and work the Lakers himself, but his strategy and game planning will surely enable his team to pester the duo and compete for his home crowd. Although it’s early in the season, any inter-conference matchups between playoff contenders are crucial to the final outcome of the season.
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) October 26, 2018
With a win, San Antonio moves up to a positive record at 3-2 and they’ll remain the second best team in the Southwest Division. If they were to lose, the Spurs would drop down to a tie with Dallas for third in the division. Popovich knows as well as anyone that these games add up and he’ll do everything in his power to guide the team to victory.
His strategy to bench center Jakob Poeltl against the Lakers proved to be smart, as the tempo of the game made the young center less valuable than usual. Instead, he deployed a small-ball lineup to combat the speedy Lakers. In this matchup at home Poeltl may be used to slow the pace of the game and focus on efficient scoring, rebounding and defending.
It’ll take a balanced effort from the team, including a solid amount of production from the bench, but San Antonio could certainly take control of the game early and ride momentum through the night.