The Los Angeles Lakers earned a tough win over the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday afternoon, coming back to win 108-103.
While the win was nice to see as the young players played well down the stretch, it pulled the Lakers even with the Phoenix Suns in the win column, which can hurt the Lakers chances of keeping their top-three protected pick in the upcoming draft.
Los Angeles returns to the court Wednesday, as they play their second to last road game of the season in San Antonio against the Spurs.
The Spurs have a very experienced backcourt, as four veterans, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili receive most of the minutes.
None of them are putting up All-Star numbers at this point in their careers, but they all still have the ability to beat you in a variety of ways, whether that be shooting the three, passing the ball or driving to the basket.
Green has missed the last two games with a quadriceps injury, so it is possible that he sits out Wednesday night’s game. The Spurs are also in their second game of a back-to-back, so as is often the case for Gregg Popovich, he could elect to rest some of his veterans with the playoffs right around the corner.
If that is the case then Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson could see a spike in their minutes. They will have the tough task of guarding Laker guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, who have been playing some of their best basketball in recent weeks.
In eight games since he was moved to shooting guard, Russell is averaging 20.9 points and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three.
Clarkson’s strong play goes all the way back to the All-Star break, as in his last 19 games he is averaging 17.6 points and 4.0 assists.
Tyler Ennis and David Nwaba have each played well off the bench for the Lakers recently. Ennis has scored in double-figures in four of the last five games while Nwaba continues to impress with his energy and defensive ability. The Lakers will need both to continue their strong play.
Spurs starting small forward Kawhi Leonard has not only developed into one of the best defenders in the league, but one of the best all-around threats as he is an MVP candidate this season. The 25-year-old has raised his scoring average in each of his six NBA seasons, and this year is averaging 26.0 points to go along with 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram will have the tough task of defending Leonard, although Leonard will also have to pay attention to Ingram on the defensive end as Ingram has been looking to score more in recent weeks.
In 12 games since Ingram was held scoreless against the Boston Celtics, he is averaging 14.9 points per game and shooting a very efficient 52.5 percent from the field.
San Antonio also features former All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol in their frontcourt. Gasol has killed his former team this year, and in three games against the Lakers he has averaged 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent in just 24.6 minutes per game.
Aldridge had a scare in recent weeks, as he missed some games after suffering a “minor heart arrhythmia” or an episode of an abnormal heart rhythm. Aldridge has returned to play though as is playing at a high level, although he is being monitored by the Spurs training staff.
The pressure will be on the trio of Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Thomas Robinson to continue their strong play, especially on the boards. The Spurs bigs are extremely long so the Lakers will need to work hard and box out to prevent them from getting easy baskets and extra possessions.
Three Keys To Victory:
Limit Turnovers: The Spurs are a team that thrives off their opponent’s mistakes, quickly turning turnovers into fast break opportunities, so the Lakers will have to take care of the ball if they want to have a chance Wednesday night.
Ingram Continuing To Attack The Basket: In recent weeks Ingram has developed an aggressiveness that we didn’t see the first few months of the season. With his length he has the ability to get to the rim with ease, making him extremely tough to guard. Even if Leonard is guarding him, Ingram needs to continue to attack.
Get Off To A Good Start: In their previous meetings this season with the Spurs, the Lakers have gotten off to slow starts and the games have been over by halftime. If the Lakers get down by double digits early their chances of winning this game are slim to none.
Los Angeles Lakers (22-55) Vs. San Antonio Spurs (60-17)
5:30 P.M. PST, April 5, 2017
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Spurs Starting Lineup:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Dewayne Dedmon
Key Reserves: Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, David Lee, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Larry Nance Jr.
Key Reserves: Tyler Ennis, David Nwaba, Corey Brewer, Thomas Robinson, Tarik Black