Lakers Vs. Spurs Preview: LeBron James Returns From Adductor Strain After Five-Game Absence
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers try to get back in the win column as they face the San Antonio Spurs away from home on Friday.

LeBron James makes his comeback from the adductor injury that sidelined him for five straight games. Max Christie is also returning having cleared the health and safety protocols after three missed matchups, as is Juan Toscano-Anderson, who has been dealing with a back issue. However, Patrick Beverley is sitting out the contest due to the three-game suspension he earned for pushing Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton on Tuesday.

The Spurs have center Jakob Poeltl at their disposal after the Austrian big man missed last week’s loss to the Lakers. Zach Collins is set to return from an ankle injury that kept him out of play for nearly three weeks. But San Antonio is without Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson and Wesley Blake, who are dealing with ankle and knee injuries.

The Lakers dominated the short-staffed Spurs last Sunday, chalking up a blowout 123-92 win. L.A.’s defense truly suffocated the visitors, allowing them to shoot just 39% from the field and 20.6% from downtown.

But L.A.’s performance wasn’t unblemished. San Antonio managed to collect nearly three times more offensive rebounds (13) than the Purple and Gold, turning them into 15 second-chance points — all without Poeltl, the NBA’s top-15 rebounder. Also, the Spurs forced the Lakers to commit 50% more turnovers and scored nearly twice as many points off them (18) than L.A.

The Lakers need to tidy up their game if they want to bounce back from the loss to Phoenix, a major talking point amid James’ return to the starting lineup. The four-time NBA champion has been turning the ball over at a top-15 rate, committing 3.4 turnovers per game, and his five-game absence might further cause some sloppiness to creep into his play until he gets his touch back. That puts extra pressure on Dennis Schroder, who might need to take on a bigger share of ball-handling duties — particularly with Beverley out.

The Purple and Gold also want to see Thomas Bryant stepping up again, supporting Anthony Davis on the glass in a tough matchup with Poeltl. Bryant’s been terrific since returning from a thumb injury, averaging 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game — faring particularly well on offense, in big part thanks to his chemistry with Russell Westbrook.

But first and foremost, the Lakers need Davis to keep up his dominant form. The 29-year-old forward is putting up an astonishing 33.2 points, 17.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.6 blocks per night over the last five outings.

Many worried that James’ return could potentially have a chilling impact on Davis’ form. However, the eight-time All-Star has said he doesn’t plan on changing his game despite his star teammate’s comeback. Davis added his partnership with James worked phenomenally during the 2019-20 title run — and so there’s no reason to believe they can’t replicate their success this year.

If the Davis-James duo can reach a level in the vicinity of their championship-winning performance, a win over the Spurs will likely be one of many more to come.

Los Angeles Lakers (5-11) vs. San Antonio Spurs (6-13)

5:00 p.m. PT, November 25, 2022
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Lonnie Walker IV
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Kendrick Nunn, Thomas Bryant, Wenyen Gabriel, Juan Toscano-Anderson

Projected Spurs Starting Lineup:

PG: Tre Jones
SG: Devin Vassell
SF: Keldon Johnson
PF: Jeremy Sochan
C: Jakob Poeltl

Key Reserves: Keita Bates-Diop, Isaiah Roby, Charles Bassey, Gorgui Dieng, Romeo Langford

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