Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 102-95 win over the San Antonio Spurs
Lakers forward Metta World Peace, left, battles Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon for a rebound during the second half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson attempts a layup against Spurs big men Davis Bertans, left, and Pau Gasol during the second half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Spurs center Pau Gasol looks to pass against the double-team defense of Lakers big men Tarik Black, left, and Thomas Robinson during the second half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Tyler Ennis (11) chases after a loose ball against Spurs guard Bryn Forbes during the second half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers guards Jordan Clarkson (6) and Tyler Ennis, shown during a break in play in the second half, combined for 36 points against the Spurs.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Metta World Peace drives against Spurs guard Patty Mills during the first half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, center, reacts to a play as he waits to enter the game along with teammates Dewayne Dedmon, left, and Tony Parke during the first half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Tyler Ennis (11) drives against Spurs guard Tony Parker during the first half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
Lakers Coach Luke Walton talks to Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson during the second half.(Darren Abate / Associated Press)
The objective of sports contests is to win, but winning can be losing sometimes. That’s an unpleasant side effect of a draft system aimed at improving parity. The worse you are, the better player you have an opportunity to draft the following year.
The NBA’s system muddies that equation with the lottery, but having a worse record remains better for teams trying to improve their chances of getting a top pick. I explained it all Wednesday in an article about the Lakers’ lottery prospects, including how a tie between the Suns and Lakers would be resolved, which seemed likely at the time.
Now, with a 102-95 win over the Spurs, the Lakers will need some help from the Suns if they’re to “catch” them again.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday night’s game.
1. The elephant in the room is something the Lakers players are well aware of at this point. Tyler Ennis noted he and his teammates are all on social media enough to understand that fans don’t want wins right now; they want a high draft pick. Thomas Robinson said, laughing, that he was attacked on Twitter for helping the Lakers win. Larry Nance Jr. got upset for a moment when asked if fans rooting for a loss bothered him. Then he collected himself to simply say no, because his job is to compete. And while it would probably have been much better for the Lakers in the long term had they lost, you can’t blame players like Ennis and David Nwaba for trying to close out the game with a win. They are fighting for their futures.
2. Ennis made eight of 14 shots including three of four three-pointers. He’s getting much more comfortable with his shooting, at Lakers Coach Luke Walton’s urging. “Luke just been telling me he believes in me,” Ennis said. “He believes I can shoot. Me and Theo [Robertson] and the coaching staff have been working on it. When I get in the game, [if] I don’t shoot, he gets on me. Either shoot it or come out.”
3. Walton raised some eyebrows by playing Metta World Peace midway through the second quarter, and later explained his reasoning. “When Brandon [Ingram] got out, there wasn’t really anyone else to go to,” Walton said. “Not being a knock on Metta, but we are trying to play younger player right now. You look down the bench and there wasn’t. San Antonio’s got big players and Metta’s a big strong defender and to me I love the opportunity to play Metta. He’s been so good for us. He works his tail off every day in practice and never complains about not playing.”
4. World Peace’s defense is the most fun for Walton to watch, and World Peace loves putting on that show. At 37, he doesn’t move like he used to, but he still appreciates the challenge of facing someone as talented as Kawhi Leonard. “He’s just tough,” World Peace said. “Kawhi can do everything. And he’s smart. Good teammate. Can shoot the three, pass, play defense, post up.”
5. Ennis scored the most, but the Lakers’ play inside was a big factor in the win. The Lakers outrebounded the Spurs by 10 and outscored them by 20 in the paint.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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