Lakers put up little resistance in loss to Spurs

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has the ball knocked away by Lakers forward Corey Brewer.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As the Lakers returned for their first home game since the All-Star break, their new president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, watched from a suite in Staples Center as they lost, 119-98, to the San Antonio Spurs.

Lakers Coach Luke Walton was asked if Johnson’s presence on Sunday afternoon affected his players.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I would imagine they would’ve played harder if it had an effect on them one way or another.”


The Lakers were lethargic from the start and for much of the first half.

The Spurs simply marched on, with little regard for a Lakers team that’s still adjusting in more ways than one. They handed Los Angeles its 41st loss in 60 games this season. San Antonio improved to 45-13, second-best record in the NBA, and 3-0 against the Lakers.

Spurs star Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 25 points in 25 minutes.

Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram played a game-high 35 minutes and scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting. The field goals made and points were both career highs. Jordan Clarkson added 19 points with two assists and two turnovers and D’Angelo Russell scored 18 with three assists and three turnovers.

Leonard dominated the Lakers early, and was the difference in the game in the first quarter. With Ingram guarding him, he made six of his first seven shot attempts, six of eight overall in the first quarter. After he made two free throws late in the quarter, he had as many points as the Lakers’ entire team — 16.

“Kawhi got everything he wanted in the first half,” Ingram said.

By the end of the opening quarter, the Lakers trailed, 36-20, and had only two assists. They never threatened to chip away at the Spurs’ lead in the second quarter. By halftime it was 61-41.

The Spurs’ domination was reflected in the turnover margin. The Lakers committed 12 first-half turnovers, which San Antonio converted into 19 points. The Spurs committed four first-half turnovers for two points.


From there, the Spurs coasted even though the Lakers finally began to show some fight.

“I thought we did a really good job in the second half of at least starting to compete,” Walton said.

Ingram in particular shifted his focus in his matchup with Leonard.

“I think the guys around me said something,” Ingram said. “They encouraged me to keep playing, keep defending. I don’t think I did a good job of taking up his space. I think he had a clear view of his shots. I didn’t use my length well until the second half.”

Leonard played barely 10 minutes in the second half, and made only two of eight shots.

Ingram, meanwhile, scored 16 second-half points, making seven of 12 shots.

“When you give up as many as he did in the first quarter, as a rookie you kind of [are] a little shell-shocked when you get back in,” said Walton, who didn’t fault Ingram for the first half, when he felt Leonard just got hot. “I thought Brandon did a great job of staying engaged and then embracing that challenge and really stepping the zone game up. I thought one of the few bright spots was the way Brandon played out there.”

Throughout the season, Walton has had to temper his frustration about a lot of things. He’s had to understand that the Lakers’ focus on development sometimes sacrificed wins. He’s had to allow for the mistakes that young players inevitably make.

He has never tolerated a lack of effort.

“I love our guys, and I’m supportive toward them . . . but that first half, that can’t happen if we’re trying to build and trying to get somewhere,” Walton said. “That was unacceptable. . . . If you’re not going to compete, you’re not going to give yourself a chance.”


Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli