The San Antonio Spurs took down the Los Angeles Lakers 110-106 in a thriller at the AT&T Center. It was an encouraging bounce-back performance for the Silver and Black, but they left plenty of room for improvement.
A mixture of lights-out shooting from the visiting Lakers, a slow start on offense, and some flimsy defense troubled the Spurs in the first half. San Antonio trailed by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, but thanks to the heroics of DeMar DeRozan, they went into the locker room behind by just 7 points.
The Spurs shored up their porous defense in the second half and managed to hold Los Angeles to a respectable 46-points. In addition to an improved defensive effort, San Antonio picked up the pace on offense and fought their way back into the game.
San Antonio leaned on their newest attraction down the stretch and DeRozan delivered with a handful of clutch buckets to seal the deal. The smooth-scoring wing finished the night with 30 points, 12 rebounds and was two assists away from securing his first triple-double of the season.
Though it was only the sixth game of the young season, there was a playoff-like atmosphere to the matchup. San Antonio took home a pair of dubs in the first two matchups between the teams, but Los Angeles will have a chance to redeem themselves when the historic franchises come together again for back to back games in early December.
Next: DeMar DeRozan is the engine of the offense
DeMar DeRozan is the engine of the offense
With yet another near double-digit dime performance in the books, it’s becoming increasingly apparent who runs the show. Bryn Forbes may be the Spurs starting point guard, but DeMar DeRozan has the trust of San Antonio’s staff. His vision as a passer is underrated and his ability to hit tough shots is next to none.
We’ve already watched DeRozan dismantle defenses and his big-play potential keeps Spurs fans on the edge of their seats. He’s not afraid to throw down on defenders and we got a little taste of his power to produce posters last night.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 28, 2018
Not only has DeMar come up big for the Spurs in late game situations, but he has breathed life into an offense where many doubted his fit. The former Raptor is averaging 27.2 points per game on a rather impressive 47.8% shooting from the field and paces all Spurs in assists per game with 7.8 a night.
While his scoring prowess was never in question, his playmaking has pleasantly surprised even the most hopeful of fans. DeRozan is currently the NBA’s fourth-highest assist-man behind only LeBron James, James Harden, and Kyle Lowry.
It’s unclear how much of the ball handling responsibilities DeRozan will have to relinquish once Derrick White returns to the lineup, but Coach Pop has likely seen enough to feel comfortable with the ball in his hands. In any case, DeMar should remain near the league leaders in assists and points going forward.
Next: Defense is the biggest thorn in San Antonio's side
Defense is the biggest thorn in San Antonio’s side
The Spurs’ defense hasn’t offered much resistance this year and it isn’t getting better anytime soon.
Yes, it’s early and they’ll have plenty of time to correct the many defensive mistakes they’ve made across the board. However, it’s unlikely time will heal all wounds this season. Murray’s year ended before it truly began and the rest of San Antonio’s roster doesn’t exactly project as the kind of stoppers necessary to hang with NBA’s top scorers.
The Spurs came away with the win on Saturday night and the defense had a lot to do with the second half resurgence. Although the defensive intensity was a welcomed site to see, that sort of focus and energy has to be there for the entirety of the game, not just one quarter.
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) October 28, 2018
I don’t trust San Antonio’s defense to consistently disrupt the opposing offense. Strap in for a rough season on this side of the ball. We’re definitely going to get out fair share of high scoring games, but we’re not going to be on the right side of all of them.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge continues to struggle with efficiency
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to struggle with efficiency
LA hasn’t shied away from shooting his shots this season, but they’re not going in like they used to. Through six games, LaMarcus Aldridge is looking a little shabby shooting the ball. His free throw percentage has dipped by 17 percent from last year and he’s down to just 41.3% shooting from the field.
While it’s no cause to sound the emergency alarm quite yet, LA’s icy shooting is something to keep an eye on. Aside from a 37 point explosion against the Lakers earlier this season, the rangy stretch-four has put on somewhat of a disappearing act.
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His 15 points at home against the Pacers were disappointing, but his 12 points in Portland were unacceptable. The Spurs need him to produce big-time this season and so far the big man hasn’t been up for the task on a nightly basis.
LaMarcus came up a bit short again last night; 15 points, 5 boards, and more turnovers than assists. Thankfully, the rest of the squad picked up the slack and made up for his frustratingly unproductive offensive output.
Though I’ve harped on his deficiencies, it hasn’t been all bad for the six-time All-Star. He’s crashed the boards, played tough post defense, protected the rim, and nearly doubled his dime dishing efforts. Those assets alone make him invaluable to San Antonio.
It’s easy to forget how dominant LaMarcus can be when he’s dialed in. The 13-year vet is more than capable of taking over a game and reminded us of his talents when he toyed around with Lakers’ defender Ivica Zubac a little under a week ago. The young center put his best foot forward but came away with 5 fouls in under 5 minutes of action.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing to start the season, but I have no doubt he’ll turn things around. The Western Conference is becoming a free for all with each passing day and teams will be hard pressed to outscore the Spurs once Aldridge finds his rhythm.