San Antonio at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: LAL -9
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Los Angeles Lakers have won three straight while ameliorating a defense that has been a problem the entire season. Prior to holding its past two opponents to just an average of 99.5 points, the Lakers gave up 108 points to the Orlando Magic in a loss and then came back to surrender 117 to the Denver Nuggets in another loss.
It was better last outing when it held the Indiana Pacers to just 96 points, in a 104-96 victory to snap its two-game skid.??LeBron James has been just as culpable as any on the defensive end. His defense has sagged and lagged, but he is still doing his thing on the offensive end, naturally. As James ages, we will see different aspects of his game fall off, and the defense and rebounding are typically the first to go with aged legends. He is averaging eight rebounds a game, which is solid, but unspectacular by his standards…but James still accounts for 28.1 points per game and 6.7 assists, while posting a PER Of 27.1.
Kyle Kuzma has started alongside him at power forward, and Kuz is really looking like the stretch-4 the Lakers thought he could be when it surrendered Julius Randle and went a different direction with Kuzma. He is averaging 16.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers attempt 29.4 threes per game, but it connects on just 10.1 which is at a 34.5 percent clip. L.A.’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the NBA in allowing 112.1 points per game, while the Lakers barely manages to outscore that at 112.3. Still, at 12-9, there is enough reason for optimism on the grounds that James can get this gang going when it matters and still find its way into the postseason—where, as the proverbial saying goes, “Anything can happen.” James has appeared in the last eight NBA Finals, but this might be his first year to snap that streak with a team that simply does not compare to some of the star-studded casts he played with, in Miami, and even in Cleveland.
The San Antonio Spurs are 11-13 and have lost four of its past seven games. Pau Gasol is out indefinitely with a stress fracture, but that is no major loss as the veteran’s minutes have vastly decreased and he is scarcely a picture of the core unit, anymore. Gasol was averaging just 17 minutes a game prior to sustaining the injury, and in his stead expect Davis Bertans and Jakob Poeltl to absorb the extra minutes.
The Spurs clearly are not the same vaunted team without its core players of seasons past: Gone are Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, while Tony Parker is lacing it up for the Charlotte Hornets this season. DeMar DeRozan is the new face of the franchise, and he has played well. DeRozan is averaging 24 points, six rebounds and six assists per game while leading the team in PER (excluding Gasol’s limited play) at 21.1.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a shadow of the player he was in Portland, but he still is playing reasonably well in averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. Gregg Popovich can always seemingly get blood from oranges, but this Spurs team really might be maxing out at its near-.500 record. After DeRozan, Aldridge and veteran Rudy Gay, the Spurs have a ragtag cast of sidekicks that have scarcely made huge impacts in their pro careers.
Short of Derrick White becoming some sort of season savior, it is tough to envision much changing for the Spurs. White began the season injured but has now started in six games, and he is averaging five points and two assists in his 12 appearances total this season. It is not exactly the kind of start from the youngster that spells “season savior.” This may be the Spurs worst season ever under Gregg Popovich, but the management in San Antonio will relish the chance to draft high in 2019, given its acumen for pulling the top players with far worse picks.