April 5, 2018, 3:04 am
The Lakers showed great improvement this season, already surpassing their win total of 26 from last season. Perhaps nothing was more impressive or satisfying, than sweeping the well-coached San Antonio Spurs 3-0 in the season series.
Los Angeles hosted the Spurs without Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram but still went toe-to-toe with San Antonio for the entire game.
Overtime belonged to the Lakers as they outdueled the Spurs 14-4 to seal their 122-112 victory. Los Angeles opened the extra period with two gorgeous plays by Kyle Kuzma, who demonstrated two of his best skills with a long-range 3-pointer and his patented running hook shot. Their 6-0 run gave the Lakers their biggest lead of the game to that point — a lead they would never relinquish. After two ugly possessions, Josh Hart gave the Lakers a badly needed stop with a perfectly-timed defensive rotation to draw a charge. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would follow up the play with a 3-pointer to seal the win for the Lakers.
Kuzma was the Lakers’ best player on the evening finishing with 30 points, five rebounds and one steal on 11-of-23 from the field, 5-of-9 from 3-point range and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. He led the Lakers with 43 minutes played on the evening — one of two starters to earn significant run down the stretch.
Coach Luke Walton was astute in his roster selections this evening, wisely discerning who was contributing the most to the Lakers’ cause. One person who earned the coach’s trust was Caldwell-Pope, who tallied an extremely efficient 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and plus-9 rating while knocking down 7-of-9 from the floor, 2-of-2 from 3-point distance and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. He and Kuzma were the only two starters to play more than 23 minutes, contribute in the deciding stretches of the fourth quarter or play in overtime.
The Lakers got tremendous contributions from their bench on Wednesday, none more important or unexpected than those provided by Channing Frye. He chipped-in 19 points, four rebounds, one block and a plus-11 rating on 8-of-9 from the field and 3-of-3 from 3-point range. His only miss on the night was arguably his easiest shot, a blown dunk attempt.
Ivica Zubac played one of the best overall games of his career with eight points, six rebounds, six assists, one block and a plus-13 rating on 4-of-6 shooting.
Tyler Ennis was fantastic with 10 points, seven assists, two rebounds, one steal, one block and a plus-16 rating. He played with poise down the stretch and was a key contributing factor to the Lakers’ win.
Hart, who has a knock for accumulating double-digit rebounds, finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and a game-high plus-19 rating.
The Lakers overcame a huge game by LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. He earned a plus-7 rating — the only Spurs starter to earn a positive overall rating.
Dejounte Murray was the Spurs second best player, tallying 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block. He scored 11-of-12 of the Spurs’ final points in the fourth quarter, single-handedly keeping San Antonio in the game as the Lakers tried to pull away.
Former Laker Pau Gasol gave the Lakers a hard time early on, accruing nine points and eight rebounds by the end of the first half. His effectiveness wore off as the game continued, finishing with an overall stat line of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers were stellar from 3-point range hitting 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) in contrast to the Spurs who made a respectable 9-of-23 (39.1 percent).
-Los Angeles had to overcome a 15-4 discrepancy on the offensive glass and 46-44 deficit in rebounding overall.
-Scoring points in the paint has been a strong suit for the Lakers all season and that held true on Wednesday when Los Angeles edged San Antonio 58-44 in the key.
-The Lakers outshot the Spurs on the evening, converting 47-of-86 (54.7 percent) vs. 42-of-97 (43.3 percent) for San Antonio.
-For once the Lakers were more efficient at the free throw line than their opponent, knocking down 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) compared to 19-of-27 (70.4 percent) for the Spurs.
The Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Minnesota is led by Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging 21.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooting 54.1 percent from the field and 85.6 percent from the free throw line.
The Timberwolves are currently tied at 34 losses with four teams in a very tight race for the Western Conference playoffs. They could end up as high as the four seed or they could miss the postseason entirely.
They will be happy to welcome back Jimmy Butler, who is has been ramping-up his workouts since being injured February 25. Although he will provide the Timberwolves a huge lift, there is no time to re-integrate players back into the rotation as every game is pivotal at this stage. Minnesota will be highly motivated to try and earn a crucial victory.