Anthony Davis and Lakers finish strong in gritty win over Spurs
For 47 minutes, the Lakers and the Spurs fought for every inch of the court, players diving for loose balls, somersaulting after missed dunks and grabbing at stretched ligaments.
It was tough, sometimes ugly basketball for the first 48 minutes of the New Year, exactly what you’d expect from two teams that had just played 48 hours ago.
It had been almost 56 years since the Lakers played consecutive road games against the same team, but Friday night, they handled one of this season’s schedule quirks with grit and focus, surging past the Spurs 109-103 for a sweep in San Antonio.
To put the Spurs away, the lead had to change hands 21 times with 15 ties, neither team ever going up by more than seven points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it made perfect sense for Becky Hammon to take over as coach after his ejection since the Lakers were her scout team.
Before the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said beating the Spurs, like his team did on Wednesday, would be even tougher Friday. The Lakers knew the Spurs would once again be without LaMarcus Aldridge, and Vogel’s team had been stuck in town, the memory of their victory still fresh.
“I think there’s a big psychological component to tonight’s game,” he said.
After, he repeated it.
“You’re going to have some wins that are a little uglier than others. We knew coming into this season with the nature of the offseason and whatnot that there was going to be some ugly nights. The key is, can you find a way to win when you’re not at your best? And we were able to do that tonight.”
Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds and LeBron James had his first triple-double of the year with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, but Friday was still a grind.
The Lakers were unable to push through until the final two-and-a-half minutes, when they closed with a 9-0 run to leave town with a pair of wins, James and Davis walking off the court with huge smiles.
“One thing we know for sure is we have a great 1-2 punch to close out games,” James said.
Highlights from the Lakers’ 109-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
For the Lakers’ stars, it was their most potent night of the young season, the 60 combined points the most from the two all season.
Davis led the way, hitting four-of-six from deep, showcasing the kind of all-around skills that most players his size don’t possess. In one second-half sequence, Davis skied for the rebound, grabbing it with one hand. He calmly dribbled up the court, put the ball between his legs and behind his back to set up a three-point shot off the bounce from the left wing.
The six attempts from three were a season-high — he took five against Dallas on Christmas night — but the Lakers hope the volume stays high on a more regular basis.
“We want him to shoot them,” Vogel said. “… Player development applies to all players on the team, not just the young players. We want all players to grow their games.
Spurs assistant Becky Hammon was prepared when she became the first woman to serve as an NBA head coach after Gregg Popovich was ejected against L.A.
“And he took a big step I thought from two years ago into last year with his three-point shooting and we’re asking him to take another big step with regard to this year. So without those four threes maybe we don’t win tonight.”
Friday, they survived the mental grind while paying a physical cost.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope grabbed at his turned left ankle the moment he hit the ground after an attempted layup in the second half.
X-rays were negative and Caldwell-Pope was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, his status for Sunday’s game against Memphis in the air.
He said he didn’t need crutches or a walking boot to leave the arena, leaving hope that he could recover to play against the Grizzlies in the first of another two-game series.
“Hopefully I can go in a couple days,” he said.
The Lakers will be at it again, an undermanned team in Memphis hosting the Lakers for two games starting on Sunday and concluding Tuesday.
“There’s a mental challenge to that that I think teams are going to see throughout the year,” Vogel said. “I think you’ll see a lot of splits in these situations and we were susceptible to that tonight, but… we were able to persevere and get the W.”
Pretty or ugly, they all count the same.
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