The Los Angeles Lakers had lost four straight games coming out of the All-Start break. However, a thrilling win over the Western Conference’s No. 2-seeded Golden State Warriors could propel them as they face the San Antonio Spurs.
After nearly two decades of the Spurs being atop the conference, they find themselves towards the bottom with a rebuilding team. At 16 games below .500, the Spurs are nearly out of reach of a spot in the Play-In Tournament, and a loss to the Lakers would all but seal that fate.
Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, and Keita Bates-Diop were all originally listed as doubtful for Monday night and have since been ruled out, putting an even heavier load on Dejounte Murray. A first-time All-Star, Murray has been a massive bright spot for the Spurs this season and a core piece for their team moving forward.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are without Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn, a disappointing but expected sight this season.
Unfortunately, the Lakers also received some tough news just a few hours before tipoff as LeBron James was ruled out due to knee soreness, which he has been dealing with for a while now.
In James’ absence, it will be up to Russell Westbrook and others to pick up the slack to avoid a letdown.
L.A. is 2-1 against the Spurs this season, with their only loss coming during the team’s coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in late December. In that game, Bates-Diop scored 30 points, although he is out for Monday’s game.
The Lakers absolutely need this win more than the Spurs, who appear to be playing for ping pong balls at this point in the season. If the season ended today, the Spurs would have the seventh-highest odds for the No. 1 overall pick.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are barely clinging on to the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, holding a 1.5-game lead over the New Orleans Pelicans. They still sit 4.5 games back of the L.A. Clippers for No. 8, but that could be out of reach with the Clippers sweeping the season series.
Consistency has been a massive struggle for L.A. this season. After big wins like Saturday night, they often coast in their next game, especially if it’s against an inferior opponent. But at this point in the season, that simply cannot be the case anymore.
The Spurs have already proven that they can beat any team that’s playing with less than full effort. With a new, youth-heavy rotation — Austin Reaves, Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson, and Talen Horton-Tucker — effort and energy should hopefully be higher than normal.
Lakers (28-35) vs. Spurs (24-40)
5:30 p.m. PT, Mar. 7, 2022
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Talen Horton-Tucker, D.J. Augustin, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore
Projected Spurs Starting Lineup:
PG: Dejounte Murray
SG: Josh Primo
SF: Keldon Johnson
PF: Doug McDermott
C: Jakob Poeltl
Key Reserves: Zach Collins, Tyus Jones, Jock Landale
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