The San Antonio Spurs brought it back to the AT&T Center on Monday night, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 117-110 and getting Gregg Popovich his 1335th career win, tying Don Nelson for the most all-time in the regular season.
Dejounte Murray nearly had a 26-point triple-double, which we have come to expect from him now, but it was the first-year Spurs and other fairly new faces who kept the Spurs ahead for nearly the entire game.
In his Spurs’ debut, Romeo Langford was 3/4 from the field for seven points and drew a charge on Russell Westbrook, which was no doubt an intentional homage to Derrick White, who is third in the league with 21 charges drawn this season. His second basket in the Silver and Black was an authoritative jam. Hopefully, he brings some high-flying action to the Spurs moving forward.
The other piece of the Boston trade, Josh Richardson, went off for 18 points on 50% shooting, including a white-hot game-best 4/5 from behind the 3-point arc. He was visibly frustrating the Lakers’ defense, which is always a pleasure to see.
While Richardson and Langford brought the offense, they were minimally effective on the defensive end. Luckily, Josh Primo had a clutch block on Malik Monk in the waning minutes and Tre Jones went off on the defensive end for three steals and a block. If it weren’t for some sloppy transition offense, Jones might have had six steals, which would have been a career-best for the second-year guard.
Jock Landale also came up huge. In the first quarter, Jakob Poeltl got into some early foul trouble so Popovich was forced to sub in Collins and Landale. Landale is a less-than-amazing defender but came up with a put-back dunk and two blocks to allow Poeltl to catch a breather before he returned to the game.
Dejounte Murray was fantastic, of course. The All-Star guard had another insane two-way effort that almost resulted in another triple-double. As a team, the Spurs mostly played well, but free-throw shooting continues to baffle them. They shot 15/29 from the charity stripe. They got to the line a ton, but they simply couldn’t convert those easy points.
The Spurs also turned the ball over 16 times -- six times by Murray, which was uncharacteristic of him. The Lakers also lost the ball several times, and they just could not hit a shot to save their lives in the first half, which ultimately made the comeback impossible for them.
Popovich’s record-tying game was not a career-defining game for anyone, but it was a solid team win against a heavily depleted Lakers team. The ninth-seeded Lakers needed to win this game to keep the Pelicans at bay, and a win over a conference rival might help propel the Spurs into the play-in tournament, where they have several matchups that have the potential to be easy wins.
When Popovich goes for the record on Wednesday against Toronto, hopefully, that game is played with sound fundamentals and amazing defense and he can reach the top of the mountain the same way he started his climb -- with unstoppable team basketball.