The last time the Los Angeles Lakers faced off with the San Antonio Spurs, Lonzo Ball came up clutch with multiple 3-pointers, and Isaiah Thomas poured in 21 points off the bench for a huge road win. Obviously, things are a little different this time around.
The Lakers remain without Ball, Thomas, and Brandon Ingram and have to figure out a way to things around back at home against a Spurs team fighting desperately for playoff positioning.
Both teams are coming off tough losses Teusday night. The Lakers let free throws, turnovers, and rebounding do them in on the road in Utah while the Spurs blew a huge lead late to the Clippers.
The biggest matchup will undoubtedly be Julius Randle vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. Randle has been the Lakers best player, but has struggled recently, not hitting the 20-point mark in each of the last three games and shooting under 40 percent in two of those contests.
Randle is the heart of this team and when he is locked in, it brings up the energy of the rest of the squad.
Dealing with the length and overall skill level of Aldridge will be a challenge for sure. Aldridge has really put the Spurs on his back in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, returning to his All-Star form of years past. He has a number of ways to score and his fadeaway is practically unblockable.
The point guard position will also play a major factor. The Lakers got quality minutes from Tyler Ennis on Wednesday and Alex Caruso has been solid all year. The explosive Dejounte Murray now starts for the Spurs, but Tony Parker is always dangerous, even if he is coming off the bench.
Speaking of the Spurs bench, Manu Ginobili remains one of the NBA’s best reserves, capable of getting hot at any moment.
Much like their contest against the Jazz, the Lakers will have to find a way to get out in transition and hit threes if they plan on coming up with points against one of the NBA’s best defenses. Getting stuck in a halfcourt game is a recipe for failure.
For the Lakers to keep up offensively, they’re going to need great efforts once again from Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Kuzma has really stepped up in Ingram’s absence. If anyone has benefitted from the injuries it has been him as he has returned to his early-season offensive form while playing an insane amount of minutes.
Caldwell-Pope finally got that brief 3-point slump out of his system on Tuesday, knocking down five. That could wind up being extremely important against a Spurs team that is pretty streaky when it comes to shooting from deep.
The Spurs are near the bottom of the league in three-pointers per game. But with players like Ginobili, Patty Mills, and Danny Green capable of getting hot in an instant, the Lakers must be wary defensively. The 3-point line could be the Lakers’ biggest advantage.
The Lakers will also need to be wary of Rudy Gay, who has been very efficient off of the Spurs bench recently, shooting over 60 percent in the last two games.
Three Keys to Lakers Victory
Win the 3-Point Line: The Spurs don’t shoot or make a lot of threes and that could be the way the Lakers prosper offensively. Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, Brook Lopez, and Josh Hart are all capable of leading the way and the Lakers will need every extra point they can get against this defense.
Shore Up the ‘Little Things’: Luke Walton pointed to the Lakers struggles at the line, as well as defensive rebounding as reasons for they lost to the Jazz. The same could be said for Sunday’s defeat. Shoring up those areas, as well as limiting turnovers will be huge as the Lakers have 32 fewer shot attempts in the last two games and that can’t continue.
Bench vs. Bench: It seems like no matter who comes off the Spurs bench, they always wind up producing. Gay, Parker, Ginobili gives them three veteran options. The Lakers will need Hart, Ennis, Ivica Zubac, and Channing Frye to figure out a way to match.
Los Angeles Lakers (33-44) Vs San Antonio Spurs (45-33):
7:30 P.M. PST, April 4, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Alex Caruso
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Josh Hart, Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac, Channing Frye
Projected Spurs Starting Lineup:
PG: Dejounte Murray
SG: Patty Mills
SF: Kyle Anderson
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Pau Gasol
Key Reserves: Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Rudy Gay, Danny Green
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