This one looked like a loss from pregame all the way until midway through the fourth quarter.
We don’t want to overstate things too much because the Spurs were missing LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. But that team has an uncanny ability to fill in the gaps it needs and keep winning anyway. The Lakers were also shorthanded and at the end of a nine-day road trip for four games. They were tired. They already had three wins on the road trip. This was one they could have afforded to let slip away.
Then they began the night shooting 2-of-18 before looking spent to start the second half.
Instead of giving in, they came back and won on the road after trailing by 17 points.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 116-112 win over the Spurs.
1.) Lonzo Ball can shoot. He’s recovered nicely from his early struggles. I wrote a whole game story about that. You should read it.
2.) Julius Randle had another tremendous game. Randle led the team with 25 points and hit two critical free throws to take a 106-105 lead over the Spurs with 1:59 left in the game. Randle has been an important part of the Lakers’ surge lately and is playing some of his best basketball. Before the game, Lakers Coach Luke Walton was asked if he’s easier on Randle now that he’s playing so well. Walton said no. It was Randle’s second 25-point game in a row. Randle also made nine of 11 free throws, which is a far cry from how this road trip began with Randle missing all five of his free throw attempts in Sacramento.
3.) What a debut for Travis Wear. Wear helped the Lakers chip away at the Spurs’ lead late in the fourth quarter, but what really impressed Walton was Wear’s defense. “Just locking in and not letting my guy score,” Wear said. “That simple. Communicating, getting in on reds, that’s about it.” Wear grew up a Laker fan in Huntington Beach and so this first regular season game in a Lakers uniform was a big moment for him. He said he wasn’t nervous, which almost seemed to surprise him. It helped that the South Bay Lakers, where Wear had spent the rest of this season, run the same system as the Lakers. “I definitely felt at home,” Wear said.
4.) Ball made an observation that was perhaps more astute than he knew. “It shows we’re growing,” he said of Saturday night’s win. “At the beginning of the year we might have just gave up, take the L and go home. Be happy with a 3-1 trip. We’re growing up. We know we can win every game we’re in.” That is not an attitude the Lakers had at the beginning of the year. That kind of fatalistic thinking goes back years. Last season’s team might have said they wanted to finish a road trip undefeated, but wouldn’t be able to do it. They lost focus. They gave in to a feeling of defeat when they faced big deficits. The Lakers as they are now are much less likely to succumb to that kind of thinking.
5.) Luke Walton said Isaiah Thomas has been a calming presence for a team that lost a few veterans. Thomas serves as another coach on the bench. “I’m always talking,” Thomas said. “I’m a leader. I’m always talking. We’re down 17, I’m telling these guys don’t give up, one play, one stop at a time. Let’s execute on the offensive end. Guys did that. Guys made big plays on both ends of the floor and this was a total team effort tonight.”