The Lakers were cruising to an easy victory until San Antonio rallied back in the fourth, outscoring the Lakers 40-35 to make it a game. Los Angeles held on as the Spurs made key turnovers late in the fourth.
Anthony Davis was a dominant force for the Lakers, ending the night with 37 points, 10 rebounds and went 9-12 from the line hitting crucial free throws in the final seconds of the game.
Rui Hachimura took James' place in the starting lineup and ended the night with 13 points on 24 minutes of play. Austin Reaves continues to be the Lakers super-sub, leading the team in points off the bench with 15.
If there was a team the Lakers could beat without James, it's the worst team in the Western Conference. Hachimura scored the team's first seven points and it was off to the races from there. L.A. had one of their best opening quarters of the year, scoring 34 points and holding San Antonio to just 24.
Los Angeles dominated the rest of the first half, leading by as many as 18 points.
Davis continued his recent MVP-esque offensive production, scoring 24 points in the first half, the most by any Laker in a half this season. Davis also had the highlight of the night posterizing Victor Wembanyama late in the second quarter.
Wembanyama matched that energy by going right back at Davis with a dunk of his own, followed by an alley-oop, but the Lakers still led comfortably 63-50 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Lakers maintained control thanks to some great Taurean Prince minutes. He has a few key threes and had a nice fastbreak behind-the-back pass to Hachimura, which led to a dunk. Prince ended the night with 17 points and shot 40% from downtown.
Leading by 18 and heading into the final frame, Los Angeles just needed a few good minutes to start the fourth to put away the Spurs for good.
Unfortunately, San Antonio went on a quick 5-0 run, forcing Darvin Ham to call a timeout. A Prince three ended the run, but the Lakers still had to bring Davis back into the game thanks to the Spurs cutting the lead down to 11.
San Antonio refused to go away and after a Wembanyama three, it was a five-point game with 90 seconds to go.
Davis missed a three but stole the ball and slammed it home and Wembanyama followed that up with another three at the top of the key.
The Spurs could’ve tied the game with 21 seconds left, but Wembanyama split a pair of free throws and after Davis made his pair at the charity stripe, the Lakers just needed one more stop to end the game.
They got that stop when Wembanyama was called for an offensive foul for kicking out his leg on a 3-point attempt and Davis sealed the win for the Lakers by stealing the inbounds pass from Keldon Johnson.
Even without James, the Lakers have enough talent and size to beat the tanking Spurs. They dominated the fastbreak points early on, outscoring San Antonio at one point by 17. They also had a good 3-point shooting night going 40% from downtown as a team.
The Lakers will play the Spurs again on Friday, so we'll see if James returns and what adjustments Greg Popovich and the Spurs make for the rematch.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.