Lakers bounce back with win over San Antonio Spurs at home

The Sporting Tribune's Rey Moralde writes the Lakers have won seven of nine games and are three games back of the sixth seed.

LOS ANGELES — After a not-so-great game against Golden State to resume the season after the All-Star break, the Lakers went home and took care of business against the San Antonio Spurs, 123-118.

The Spurs’ latest superstar, Victor Wembanyama, was having no problem against the home team. He scored 13 of the first 15 San Antonio points. But in a puzzling move, head coach Gregg Popovich took Wemby out after the first timeout. The Lakers took advantage as they went on a 21-2 run (18-2 after Wemby went out). Wembanyama went back in and helped the Spurs close the quarter with 9 straight points. Lakers led, 30-26, after the first period.

D’Angelo Russell would make two threes to boost the lead to double figs. The Spurs would counter, though, as Devin Vassell made a jumper and Wembanyama made an otherworldly alley-oop jam. The Lakers only led, 66-59, at the half.

The Lakers did a better job coming out of the halftime break as they went up by 15 after a Rui Hachimura trey. But once again, the Spurs took advantage of a lackluster perimeter defense by the Lakers as they went on a 16-4 run to get close to the Lakers yet again.

L.A. did make some space in the fourth as Jaxson Hayes was dunking, LeBron James was scoring, and Taurean Prince made a big three. The lead ballooned to 18 at one point before they held on to win by a slim margin of five points after the Spurs took a little advantage of garbage time.

Well, the Lakers just shot the lights out at .516 while the Spurs were at .438. That’s pretty much the game if you think about it but it almost felt like the game was won in the first quarter. I’m not one to question an all-world coach in Gregg Popovich but maybe I would’ve left Victor Wembanyama for a few more minutes before sitting him out? Wemby was in such a great rhythm there and once he was taken out a few minutes too early, the Spurs never got the lead back.

But Anthony Davis was just dominant in that game even when going against the taller French phenom. The Lakers didn’t even bother playing him in the fourth quarter so it’s good that Davis got some extra rest before they play on Sunday. LeBron looked as spry as he ever has during the season so that rest must have done him good.

The Lakers could be more engaged defensively a little bit, though. They left the Spurs wide open from behind the arc and, while they were the worst three-point shooting team coming into Friday night, San Antonio still went 15 for 38 (.395) from three. You can’t leave today’s professional basketball players open from the three-point land; pretty much everyone can shoot that thing now.

L.A. also has to be better at boxing out (which was a problem against Golden State as well). Their second chance points were even at 13 so the Lakers were fortunate but the Spurs had 16 offensive boards compared to L.A.’s 10. Jeremy Sochan had 7 offensive rebounds by himself. So the Lakers might want to be a bit more physical after the shot is put up.

Nevertheless, the Lakers are just a better team up and down. Still, Victor Wembanyama is only going to get better and that is terrifying for the rest of the league outside of San Antonio.

LeBron James went for 30-7-9 to lead Los Angeles. Anthony Davis went for 28 points and 13 rebounds in three quarters while D’Angelo Russell had a pretty silent 22 points. As for the Spurs, Wemby had the rare 5×5 stat line (5 or more on 5 major statistics): 27 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals. He was the first one to achieve that since the illustrious Jusuf Nurkic did it on New Year’s Day, 2019! Malaki Branham had 17 points to lead the Spurs bench (and he also had a sweet posterization on one LeBron James) while Jeremy Sochan had 15 points and 13 boards.

The Lakers are now 31-27 and are still in the 9th spot. But Sunday will be quite the contest as they take on the team above them, the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are 2.5 games above the Lakers and it would be quite sweet if L.A. can take that W in Arizona.

But for now, rest until then. They’ll need all of that relaxation during the chaos in the Western Conference.