After LeBron James’ fourth quarter thrashing of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Western Conference rivals will return to Texas for the final meeting of the season series.
With a 2-1 series lead on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs have an early opportunity to seal this season series with a victory on Friday evening.
In each contest against his hometown team, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has posted 30 or more points with an average of nine boards per contest. The Compton-native seems to play with a chip on his shoulder against the team that is, in its essence, the heart of basketball in Los Angeles.
DeRozan’s emphatic play against the Lakers is clearly inspired. With friends and family in the audience, he surely wanted to prove a point and show out for loved ones. In his career, DeRozan has had real issues facing LeBron James and may look to make a statement about his ability as a leader and competitor.
Date: Friday, Dec. 7
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Location: San Antonio, TX
Venue: AT&T Center
TV Info: FSSW-SA
For the Spurs to finish off the series in dominant fashion, DeRozan will need to push himself to another gear. His lights-out shooting in the second half of Wednesday’s matchup was miraculous to watch, but he’ll need to help establish San Antonio’s tenacity from the start of the first quarter.
Even with a great night from DeRozan, the Spurs need to step up through and through. They’ve lost seven of their previous 10 games but have been excellent at home, winning 7-of-11 games at the AT&T Center this season. By channeling the energy of the crowd and stringing together players, head coach Gregg Popovich will surely hope for his team to play with some pep in their step.
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Though he only played 14 minutes due to poor matchups and foul trouble, forward Davis Bertans was able to drain 3-of-5 triples on Wednesday evening. The third-year sharpshooter is shooting a career-high 43.9 percent from behind the arc and an high volume of attempts could be in store against the LA’s mundane selection of perimeter defenders.
Scoring hasn’t quite been the problem for San Antonio in their three games against the Lakers this year. For both teams, defense has been atrocious in the season series thus far. For the most part, these games have been extremely close with the Spurs are scoring 122 points per meeting with LA while allowing them 123 points per game.
One way that the Spurs have combated LeBron in the past is by slowing down the pace of the game and forcing him and his teammates into unideal shots. This didn’t culminate on Wednesday, but it did in San Antonio when the Spurs limited Los Angeles to 106 points at home James put up his numbers but the rest of his team struggled and the Spurs closed out a by four-point victory.
Winning the three-point battle is crucial to the team’s odds of victory. If San Antonio’s shooters can knock down shots efficiently and protect the three-point line on the other end then there’s a solid opportunity for the Spurs to finish off the series with a win.
Once Popovich figures out how to help his players understand that giving up threes is worse than giving up twos, the Spurs defensive woes will diminish.