The Los Angeles Lakers have won four straight, finding themselves undefeated since the All-Star break. They will look to extend their streak in San Antonio to take on an always-tough Spurs team.
The Lakers have been bolstered by the return of rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who had missed a month due to a knee injury. While Ball’s return has been a welcome sight, the Lakers will be without the services of Josh Hart, whose season is now in jeopardy after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand.
Even more concerning is that Brandon Ingram, who filled in at point guard in Ball’s absence, is also out because of a left hip flexor strain. Ingram has proven to be irreplaceable for the Lakers after putting up averages of 18.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in the month of February.
Adding to the concern is that Ingram is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his hip once the team returns to Los Angeles on Sunday.
Without Hart and Ingram, Lakers head coach Luke Walton has some tough choices to make with a suddenly paper-thin roster. Julius Randle has been a revelation over the last month (19.4 points, nine rebounds, 4.3 assists), and would have to shoulder even more of the scoring burden with Ingram unavailable.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have uncharacteristically lost four out of their last five games and will be hoping to get back on track, as well as get some revenge after falling to the Lakers when the two teams last met in January.
They are still without superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, who is hoping to return sometime this month. The Spurs could also be without their starting frontcourt, as LaMarcus Aldridge is doubtful with a right ankle sprain and former Lakers big man Pau Gasol is questionable with a bone bruise.
Still, San Antonio have proven to be dangerous even when undermanned, and head coach Greg Popovich will have whoever is in uniform more than ready to play.
The Lakers shot the ball unsustainably well from all over the court on Thursday against the Miami Heat, and will have to hope that they can continue to scorch the nets against the Spurs.
Three Keys To Victory
Defense: The Spurs are a well-coached team that currently has the second-best defense in the league. They can be tough to score on in the halfcourt, which is why it’s going to be important for the Lakers to get stops of their own so they can get out and score in transition.
Against Miami, the Lakers’ quick-hitting attack looked deadly through certain stretches, but that all starts with getting stops on the defensive end. If they want to walk away with a win, the Lakers will need to lock in on defense.
Can’t Handle Randle: Randle will be the guy to watch for the Lakers in this one. He will either have a quickness advantage over Aldridge and Gasol or a size and strength advantage if those two are out and the Spurs have to play small ball. It’s going to be up to him to score efficiently and play smart.
Randle has been phenomenal lately for the Lakers and they will need him to put forth an excellent performance in order to get the win. On the defensive end, Randle’s ability to switch should come in handy, but the entire team will need to be on the same page to deal with everything the Spurs will throw at them.
Clashing Styles: The Lakers have played the season at warp speed and are currently leading the NBA in pace. They race up down the floor as quickly as possible in order to create mismatches and easy scoring opportunities, with Ball’s hit-ahead passes providing plenty of incentive for the young Lakers to run.
On the flip side, the Spurs are 29th in the NBA in pace, preferring a mto getiberate style. Whichever team imposes their will and manages to get the game to be played at their speed will likely walk away from this one with the win.
Los Angeles Lakers (27-34) vs San Antonio Spurs (36-26)
6:00 PM PST, March 3, 2018
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: Spectrum Sports Net
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Isaiah Thomas, Ivica Zubac
Spurs Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Dejounte Murray
SG: Patty Mills
SF: Kyle Anderson
PF: Davis Bertans
C: Pau Gasol (Q)
Key Reserves: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Rudy Gay
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