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Lakers vs. Spurs Preview: Can L.A. fight off fatigue?

If there’s a game L.A. should be able to finish early and sneak some rest for their starters in the fourth quarter, this is it.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

After two straight massive overtime victories against the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat, the Lakers looked like they had nothing left in the tank in Friday’s loss vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves. While this isn’t an excuse for their lackluster performance, it seems like the injuries have caught up on the purple and gold and have forced several players to play more minutes than they expected.

And the worst part? It’s only going to get tougher for the Lakers as they wait on LeBron James (who Frank Vogel mentioned is now cleared for on-court activities on Friday) and the rest to get back on the court. But the good news is that the Lakers’ next opponent is against a shorthanded San Antonio Spurs team who are missing their frontcourt bigs in Jakob Poetl and Jock Landale.

If there’s a game L.A. should be able to finish early and sneak some rest for their starters in the fourth quarter, this is it. They’re not only battling the Spurs but also the fatigue that has crept up on them after playing a heavy load of minutes and multiple overtime games in the past two weeks. Sunday’s game is the best time for them to recover from this.

And for them to do just that, the Lakers need to shoot and take care of the ball better than they did last Friday. They should know that the Spurs are going to do their best to outplay them, especially since San Antonio almost walked off with the victory two weeks ago. L.A. has to take advantage of Poetl’s absence with their size and dominance inside the paint.

It would also be great if one (or even more!) of Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk or even Wayne Ellington have a decent scoring night to ease up the Spurs’ defense on Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook — two players who have played the second and sixth most minutes in the association since Monday.

And oh, this would also be the perfect game for the Lakers to fix their third quarter issues. Through 13 games, the purple and gold have been outscored in the third quarter by 83 points — making them the worst-performing team in the league in the third quarter.

This needs to change ASAP.

They cannot allow a young Spurs team to play with confidence throughout the whole game and build momentum especially because of things like those silly head-scratching technical fouls the Lakers seem to love to commit.

Lastly, the Lakers should keep an eye out for Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott who probably will get more touches with the absence of the Spurs frontcourt. L.A. did a good job on Anthony Edwards on Friday but forgot that former Laker D’angelo Russell is still a bucket and that Karl Anthony Towns can torch them from 3-point line. The Lakers should tighten their coverage on the Spurs three young guns and make San Antonio earn their field goals inside.

Fighting off fatigue is a difficult ask but the Lakers can certainly make it easier for themselves by avoiding another nail-biter and knocking off the Spurs out of the game as early as possible. If L.A. makes sure Murray or Johnson do not turn into all-stars against them, and they get contributions from everyone in the rotation, then there’s a good chance that the Lakers leave Sunday’s early afternoon game and first night of a back-to-back stretch with a smile on their face.

Notes and Updates

  • LeBron James’ status for Sunday’s game has not yet been released but Vogel noted prior to Friday’s game that he would be day-to-day moving forward.

The Lakers will tip off their first afternoon game of the regular season at 12:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on Spectrum Sportsnet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani