Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs
Time: 7:30 PM CT (NBA League Pass)
Spread: SAS -16
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs are riding a three-game win streak since its loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. San Antonio is a perfect 27-0 at the AT&T Center where it will host the hapless 11-41 Los Angeles Lakers. NBA oddsmakers favor the Spurs by 16-points in the game which will air at 7:30 Central on NBA League Pass.
The Spurs most recent victory came last night in an ugly rout of the Dallas Mavericks. San Antonio held the Mavs to just 26 points in the first half and led by 36 at the intermission. Only Kawhi Leonard put up outstanding individual numbers in the game with 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting, but San Antonio played 13 players in the game with 11 seeing 10 minutes or more.
Backup point guard Patty Mills came up big off the bench with 16 points in 15 minutes, but San Antonio met little resistance from Dallas as the Spurs shot 51.3 percent from the field and 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from three-point range. Given how badly San Antonio disposed of the Mavs, the L.A. Lakers could be in for a rude awakening, if such a term can be used for a team so mired in a horrific losing season.
Things have been better of late for the Lakers, though, with back-to-back victories over two other poor teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans. Neither victory came easy either, with the margin of win being just 3.5 points between the two games.
Of course the key to the short-lived turnaround has been Kobe Bryant. The 38-year old legend scored 38 points in the win over Minnesota and 27 points in the victory over the Pelicans. He shot 20 of 45 between the two games, including 11 of 22 from three. Bryant also has been good for 3.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds over that two-game stretch, so perhaps the signs are there that Bryant is turning on the gas.
The problem is that it may matter little in the big picture as the Lakers are the worst team in the West and are 14.5 games out of the playoff picture. L.A. has not been good on either end of the court, either. It averages 96.3 points per game but gives up 106.2 and it has the second-worst differential in the league of -9.9 (Philadelphia is -10.7).
The Lakers, if nothing else, will be in the Ben Simmons sweepstake in this June’s draft. While it is still very early to speculate on what Simmons could bring to the Lakers, it is not a team entirely bereft of young talent.
In fact, taking away Kobe Bryant’s boisterous and overbearing presence, the Lakers are a team riding the wave of its young talents. Jordan Clarkson is building off his First Team All-Rookie selection a year ago, and he is averaging 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 32 minutes per game.
Former Kentucky Wildcat Julius Randle is approaching a double-double average, which is something he said he would accomplish prior to the season. The quasi-rookie (he played in the season opener last year and tore his ACL) is averaging 11 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, though he has struggled some with his shot (just 41.6 percent from the field).
No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell has had his moments of brilliance too. The rookie from Ohio State is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Much like his teammates his field goal percentage is poor at 41.7 percent, but the Lakers have been largely dysfunctional on offense with Bryant attempting 16.2 shots per game at nearly the worst percentage on the roster (35.5 percent).
L.A. shoots just 41.4 percent as a team while turning the ball over 13.5 times per game. There are few bright spots in Lakerland, save that Bryant is putting on his last show before retirement and the Lakers are positioned well in the draft. Perhaps the brightest spot of all, however, is that L.A. is estimated to be $63 million below the cap which will allow the team to sign two max-contract players.
For that reason, the Lakers are shopping most of its complementary talents to make sure it has the cap space. Stephen A. Smith speculates that the Lakers may be able to reel in both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. That would change fortunes quickly and relegate the Clippers back to its “stepchild” status in L.A.
The present may be bleak in Los Angeles, but the future is brighter with the team favorably positioned both in terms of cap room and draft picks.