San Antonio at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9 PM CST (TNT)
Spread: LAL -13
Odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs have fared 5-5 SU over its last 10 and face the No. 1 Western team the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of a TNT doubleheader. The game will tip-off at 9 PM (CST) and has an over/under set at 229.5 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The San Antonio Spurs is just 22-27 on the season and currently is seeded No. 10 in the West, trailing Memphis by three games for the West’s final playoff spot.
Looking at the Spurs roster, it is understandable as to why: San Antonio is led by two high-scoring veterans, but this team’s defensive outlook is nowhere near as bright, and it lacks depth unless one is to overrate the talents in it and what they have done so far.
San Antonio is giving up 114.7 points per game while scoring 113.7 itself. It has a negative point differential, a sub .500 record, and still the rough outlines of what could be a postseason team even so. It is certainly too early to write them off, at least.
The Spurs are offensively led by the two veterans DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both post-PERs of 20-plus, but after that, the depth really thins out on this roster. Bryn Forbes has provided a boost with 11 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, but he is really playing right at “replacement level.” The same applies to Patty Mills, whose defense is partly to blame for teams tallying so many points on the Spurs. Rudy Gay is washed up, and Dejounte Murray has been decent but the Spurs were hoping for even more.
All of this comes together to spell a team that is almost lucky to have won one-third of its games thus far in 2019-20. Without a step-up in defensive intensity, it will not even win that many moving forward. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV were all billed as potential breakout players, but none of them have broken out really.
Murray averages 10 per game, White 10, and Walker tallies just 5.6 per night. The trio was expected to lead the Spurs after Tony Parker’s regime ended, but in the two seasons since Parker left the Spurs, none of it has come to fruition, and the team is sub .500 mostly due to a lack of depth, as its primary two veterans have continued to produce.
LAL NEWS & NOTES:
The Los Angeles Lakers are now 37-11. It is currently seated atop the Western Conference with a three-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers have won six of its last 10 SU.
It appears the gamble to wager so much young talent to obtain Anthony Davis has paid off thus far. Davis leads the team in scoring, providing a powerful punch that LeBron James has done little more than feast from.
The Lakers rank No. 8 in the Association in scoring at 113.7 points per game while possessing a defense that limits teams to just 106.1. The Lakers also rank No. 7 in the league in assists per game as a team, tallying an impressive 26.1 per game.
James, of course, ranks highest in the assist category, even with the dime-dropping Rajon Rondo coming in to play alongside him. James is averaging 10.9 assists per game, to go with his 25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks/steals per game. Davis is leading the way with 27.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while coming up with 1.4 steals and 2.5 blocks per contest.
The missing thing, if anything, has been the Kyle Kuzma that Los Angeles is used to seeing. Kuzma has played 25 games this season since returning from injury, but he has only started one of those. He averages just 23.8 minutes per game, and his shooting percentages are mediocre at 42 percent field goals and 35 percent triples. Kuzma averages the third-most of any Laker at 12.2 per game, but he really should be over at least 15 points per game. Avery Bradley is the No. 6 scorer at only eight points per game, though Bradley is known to be a defensive pest and that is his primary focus while on the court.
Kuzma, meanwhile, is known to be a shooter but not really excelling in that lone aspect of his offense. Rondo, as mentioned, comes off the bench to play 21 minutes a game, picking up nearly six assists in those limited minutes. The biggest pleasant surprise has undoubtedly been Dwight Howard. While his numbers are far from eye-popping, he has embraced the role of a defensive-minded presence whose job is to protect the rim and grab boards. Howard has averaged just under 20 minutes a game, providing just under seven points, seven rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He has rotated well on defense, communicated, and been something of a second-unit leader. The Lakers are pleased with their low-risk investment in Howard, which drew more than its fair share of criticism even though the Lakers were not contractually bound to the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
To be sure, he is not the “same guy” that averaged over 21 points per game for the Orlando Magic. That All-Star form is firmly in the past, but Howard’s defensive energy is partly responsible for the Lakers’ overall turnaround as a team on the defensive end. Davis is, naturally, an even bigger part of this picture, but the Lakers were expected to be a slow team on defense, and that has been nowhere close to true, even with Davis often playing the 4-spot.
In fact, so many things have fallen into place that other than getting better play out of its No. 3 scorer in Kuzma, it is hard to find any other areas of overt weakness in the Lakers approach thus far in 2019-20.