Entering the 4th quarter against the Spurs, the Lakers were up by 18 points and Anthony Davis was resting on the bench. It looked like Davis might not have to return to the floor if the Lakers could hold the lead.
They did not.
San Antonio shrunk the deficit to 11 and Ham was forced to call timeout and sub Davis back into the game. By then, it was too late to the rally.
The Spurs believed and Victor Wembanyama got going, hitting threes and attacking the paint. Los Angeles was still able to pull the victory out 122-119, but a comfortable game turned into an intense matchup requiring clutch free throws and big stops late.
Postgame, head coach Darvin Ham shared what he told the team regarding the 4th quarter collapse.
“I just said it to them, we can’t get bored with the details,” Ham said. “That’s the biggest thing. We have to add common sense to our talent. It’s not so much about who we’re playing, what their record is, it’s about us and the way we want to represent ourselves every time we step out on the floor. Trying to get better, trying to build winning habits and be consistent at those winning habits. We were fortunate to get that W…The biggest thing is, again, us, the way we want to represent ourselves on the basketball court. We’re fortunate to pull that one out.”
In the NBA, no lead is safe, especially on the road. Even the 3-20 Spurs are a professional basketball team. You must stay focused and not take your foot off the gas because you think your opponent doesn’t have enough time to close the gap.
Austin Reaves was on the floor during those opening minutes in the 4th quarter. Postgame, he reflected on that Spurs run.
“I think we kind of just relaxed a little bit, which is not acceptable,” Reaves said. “To start the fourth, the group that was on the floor…we did a poor job of maintaining that lead and/or stretching it to even give them some momentum to have that run in the fourth. We have to be better as a unit. They’re a young team that, regardless of the score, they’re going to play hard. That’s what their coach should do because no lead is too much in this league with the way people shoot the three. Overall, we just have to be better.”
Reaves hit the nail on the head. The unit out there to start the quarter for the Lakers was sloppy with the ball, looked lost on offense and gave the Spurs just enough hope that they began to believe they could come back.
The Lakers have had their fair share of fake comebacks this year and while it was refreshing to see them on the other side of one, it isn’t ideal to be “playing with your food” and not put a team away early.
This was the second night of a back-to-back and based on the injury report, the Lakers were pretty banged up.
LeBron James missed the game due to a left calf contusion. Jarred Vanderbilt returned from low back spasms but didn’t play great and Davis rolled his ankle in the opening minutes of the competition. This game could’ve been a chance to rest Davis, but instead, he had to log 38 minutes and be the hero late.
There was frustration around this victory, but Ham did relay that these things happen occasionally during an 82-game season.
“You’re going to have these nights,” Ham said postgame. “You’re going to have these nights. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have these nights. Whether it’s tonight, a night in January, a night in early February, you’re going to have these type of nights. You just have to be on top of it and, again, be consistent with your message. It’s simple. It’s a simple message. You just have to remain consistent with that message.”
The Lakers will have a chance to be more consistent against the Spurs again in the rematch on Friday. Hopefully, if they get out to a big lead, they can maintain it.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.