There are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.
Every season since Tim Duncan retired in 2016, a rebuild has seemed inevitable for the Spurs. Since then, they still haven’t missed the postseason — extending their league-leading playoff streak to 22 years — and in 2017, they made the Western Conference Finals.
Against all odds, they’ve found ways to stay competitive, and this season has been no different. Through five games, the Spurs are tied for the second-best record in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Lakers, their only loss of the season came against the LA Clippers. As a result, on Sunday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, the Lakers and Spurs will face off for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers lost the regular season series to the Spurs last season 3-1 because they didn’t have an answer for San Antonio’s duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged a combined 54.3 points, 16.8 rebounds and 11 assists per game through four games. Los Angeles had a particularly hard time matching Aldridge’s size and skill in the post.
This time around, the Lakers have all the size they need, and a duo more than capable of going toe-to-toe with DeRozan and Aldridge in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Suffice to say, this game should be a fun one.
If the Lakers are going to escape San Antonio with a win, though, they’re going to need to live up to their reputation as the second-best defense in the NBA. The Spurs have been white-hot on offense to start the season, ranking third in offensive rating and field goal percentage (47.4%). Their most efficient scorer through the first five games has been Derrick White, who’s averaging 14 points on 55.6% percent shooting from the field, including 54.5% percent shooting from 3-point range (11 attempts).
Defense is going to be the Lakers’ calling card on most nights — they have the second-best defensive efficiency in the league right now, holding teams to 97.1 points per 100 possessions — but it especially needs to be against the Spurs.
The Spurs have also dominated on the boards this season with a league-leading 51 rebounds per game, including 12.6 offensive rebounds per game, so the Lakers’ bigs will need to be extra disciplined when boxing out.
Beyond that, the Lakers match up fairly well with the Spurs. San Antonio has guards that can handle and shoot the ball better than the Lakers and they have the best defensive guard between the two teams in Dejounte Murray, but Los Angeles has a favorable matchup with James and Davis in the frontcourt. Expect those two to look for mismatches early and often.
The game will tip-off at 4 p.m. PST, and be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.
Here is a bit more info from pregame on who will be playing tonight, when and how many minutes they’ll get:
Kyle Kuzma’s minutes limit has been raised from 20 to 22 for today’s game vs. San Antonio, Frank Vogel said.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 3, 2019
Kuzma had nine points in 19 minutes Friday vs. Dallas. He missed the Lakers’ first four games because of a stress reaction in his left ankle.
Frank Vogel says the Lakers are sticking with the same starting lineup they’ve used in their 4 straight wins. Still no Rondo available. Vogel says the two biggest areas he wants to see improvement in are slow starts and rebounding.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 3, 2019