Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs Preview
The Los Angeles Lakers will travel to San Antonio for their second matchup with the Spurs this season, on Monday night. Both teams played each other on Nov. 3, a game the Lakers won 103-96 behind 25 points from Anthony Davis, while Lebron James had 13 rebounds and 13 assists. Since then the Lakers have continued to trend upwards, while the Spurs have trended in the opposite direction.
The Lakers sit atop of the Western Conference with a record of 14-2 and look more dangerous after each game. While I still think it’s a bad idea to bury Gregg Popovich and the Spurs (6-11), I can’t help but think that this time we can keep the shovels out. San Antonio’s star duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are a shaky pick against Los Angeles and their duo. The Spurs still have a top-five offense but are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, while the Lakers sit in the top 10 in both categories (no. 2 in defense). If the Spurs are going to start turning things around, this game is as good of a place to start.
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Arena: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Channel: FSSW-SA, SPECSN
Lakers: Avery Bradley (O), DeMarcus Cousins (O), Alex Caruso (Q)
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup
The Lakers come into this matchup after a one-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. The victory did not come easy for Los Angeles, as they came into the contest on the second night of a back-to-back. They never led in the first half and trailed by as many as 15 in the second quarter. They responded in the second half, opening the fourth quarter with a run that put them up 94-87. LA scored nine straight to end the game after rookie Brandon Clark put the Grizzlies up 105-100.
“We’re lucky to get out of here with a win. Credit to the Grizzlies for coming out strong,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
James scored 30 points on 14-for-27 shooting. Davis had 22 points, three steals and five blocks and Rajon Rondo chipped in 14 points, along with six assists and two steals.
Winning close games has become a common occurrence for LA, especially in four of their last five games. They beat the Kings, Thunder (twice) and Grizzlies by a combined 10 points. This team has shown that they are resilient and have the ability to withstand their opponent’s best shot. Their defense has been smothering opposing teams, and they are starting to connect on their shots from beyond the arc.
Through 16 games, the Lakers are hitting their 3s at a 35.5 percent clip (16th), but are shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in their last five games. If LA is going to have one of the top two defenses in the league and drill their 3s at a rate that ends up closer to the top 10 then this team is poised to win between 62-65 games.
My anticipation was that James was going to feature AD over himself, and while he hasn’t been selfish, his intent to remind everyone that he isn’t “washed” is the league’s worst kept secret. James is having an MVP caliber season–25.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and a league-leading 10.8 assists per game. His per 100 possession numbers are more eye-popping: 34.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 14.7 assists per game. Man, what? James has proven all he’s needed to prove in terms of a production standpoint. However, the question about durability still stands. With as many miles as James has put on his body another injury that keeps him sidelined for an extended period of time could be right around the corner. But so far, I doubt anything like that should be a concern. He’s not even in the top 10 in minutes per game, and with AD playing alongside him he doesn’t have to go full throttle every second he’s on the court.
San Antonio Spurs Starting Lineup
San Antonio’s last game was a 111-104 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday. The victory snapped an eight-game slide that started after their 135-115 loss to the Boston Celtics back on Nov. 9. The eight-game losing streak was the longest such streak of coach Popovich’s career.
The Spurs led by as many as 28 points and never trailed in the outing. They shot 59 percent from the field in the first half and held the Knicks to 4-for-16 shooting from the 3-point line. Aldridge scored 23 points to lead the Spurs and DeRozan added 21 on 8-for-14 shooting.
The recent struggles for the Spurs have been surprising, and even jarring for me as an outsider, but to coach Pop, it’s not the end of the world.
“These guys, they’re too hardened and they’re all pros. They’re grown, men. They’ve got families and kids and that kind of stuff doesn’t bother them,” Popovich said.
Twenty-two. That’s the number of consecutive postseason appearances by the Spurs. This is the first season since their run started that I can remember feeling like the streak might actually end. There is still plenty of games left for San Antonio but considering their two leaders in minutes per game, Aldridge and DeRozan have been poor defensively, and have never been known as stalwarts on that end of the court I don’t anticipate a turnaround anytime soon.
The Spurs have the no. 27 defense in the league. They allow opponents to shoot 47.8 percent from the field (26th) and 38.1 percent on 3s (28th). Tough to win games in the Western Conference with a defense like that.
Key Player Matchups
DeMar DeRozan vs. Lebron James
I’d be lying if I said I expected this from James. I was never in the camp of “he’s washed” but I approached this season with doubt on just how much of a force he could still be. Well, he’s still a force. He is still deliberate about when he attacks and when he defers, but when he gets downhill he still has the same overwhelming strength he’s used for years to send defenders bouncing off of him. DeRozan has shown a lackluster effort on the defensive end and if he’s assigned as the primary defender on James until someone like Rudy Gay checks in then James could get into a rhythm early on.
Anthony Davis vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Davis has been a defensive menace this season. His ability to stay in front of guards on switches, rotate into help position or stand his ground at the rim makes him a top-five defender in the league. His raw numbers are also impressive: 25.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists and he’s posting the best net rating (plus-6.6) and assist percentage (16.6) of his career. His primary matchup, Aldridge has been solid this season–18.1 points per game on 52.1 percent field goal percentage. Aldridge, 34, is starting to look slower (I know he’s never been a speedster out there) and it’s affecting his defense. Despite the criticism he gets for not shooting enough 3s and sitting in the midrange launching jumpers, he is one of the most efficient shooters from that range. On shots 15-19 feet from the basket Aldridge shoots 43.3 percent on 3.9 attempts, per NBA advanced stats. Not bad considering he’s right in between two of the top scorers in the league, Bradley Beal and Brandon Ingram. The difference? Those guys are letting it fly from deep.
Dejounte Murray vs. Danny Green
Murray has been solid this season after sitting out all of last season with an ACL tear. He’s averaging 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 22.6 minutes of action. He still can’t shoot (18.8 percent from the 3-point line) but he’s a speed demon in the open court and his defense at the point of attack is a treat to watch. Danny Green will spend time guarding Murray and DeRozan tonight. Expect the Lakers guards to go under most screens and dare Murray to beat them with jump shots.
You can always count on King James to produce through fantasy. He’s never cheap–he’s currently available for $11.4k on FanDuel–and he’s projected to post 50.9 fantasy points. His running mate is also a fantasy beast. AD is going for a salary of $11.8k with his points projected at 47.1.
For the Spurs, their star pairing of DeRozan and Aldridge are your star pickups. DeRozan is available for $7.6k and Aldridge has a salary of $7.5k. DeRozan is projected at 32 fantasy points while Aldridge is projected at 30.2. A solid value pickup is Derrick White. He’s available for $4.9k on FanDuel with projected fantasy points set at 20.1.
Bet on Matchup
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