How different are the San Antonio Spurs now that Tim Duncan has retired?
They aren’t, Lakers Coach Luke Walton said before the Lakers played the Spurs on Thursday night. Then the Spurs proved that about 90 minutes later, the same old dominating Spurs.
More than usual, actually.
They beat the Lakers, 134-94, at the AT&T Center, one game after suffering a loss that broke a nine-game home winning streak. It was the largest margin of victory ever for the Spurs against the Lakers and the most points the Spurs have scored this season. The Lakers fell to 15-28 while the Spurs improved to 31-8.
Pau Gasol didn’t miss a shot, making all nine field-goal attempts during his 26 minutes in the game. He finished with 22 points. Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points with two rebounds and two assists. Neither player entered the game after the third quarter.
“The way they came out after one loss, how that made them play, how sharp they were tonight,” Walton said. “There’s a lot to learn from being in the game, watching that game, being a part of that game. Give a ton of credit to that group over there. I didn’t think we showed up ready to meet that challenge.”
The Spurs raced to an early lead, then rarely looked back.
After San Antonio built a 17-point lead in the first quarter, the Lakers mounted a bit of a comeback late in the second. Julius Randle drove it, turning a defensive rebound into a floater while he was fouled, making the free throw, then stealing the ball on the next possession for a transition dunk.
“Just trying to be the aggressor,” Randle said. “Trying to be aggressive in everything I do. Communicate on the defensive end, on the offensive end just be aggressive and make the easy play.”
“That’s where it got away,” Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram said. “Of course on the bad closeout for me with Danny Green. After that they started knocking down shots, they got everything they wanted. They were the aggressor.”
Green’s three-pointer gave the Spurs a nine-point lead. Within three minutes of playing time, the Spurs’ lead was back up to 11.
The highest-scoring half by an opponent was on Nov. 23 when the Golden State Warriors scored 80 points against the Lakers. The Spurs came close. They scored 72 in the first half with Gasol and Leonard leading the charge.
Gasol made six shots in the first half. He also made four of his five free throws for 16 points with seven rebounds.
An 18-point halftime lead became a 31-point lead at the end of the third quarter, a period during which the Spurs scored 34 points and made 65% of their shots. The Lakers shot 35% in the quarter.
“In my opinion, we gave up too quickly,” Walton said. “We gave up as if, ‘Oh, this is going to be too hard for us tonight,’ which is not OK. Which is not the way we play as a team or the way we want to play as a team. I thought we had some really nice individual efforts from people tonight, but as a team and a whole, that’s not what we want to see.”