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LeBron James' 36 Not Enough as Lakers Drop 4th Straight with Loss to Spurs

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 24, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 23: Jock Landale #34 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 23, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs crushed the host Los Angeles Lakers 138-110 on Thursday in Staples Center.

Keita Bates-Diop led six Spurs in double figures with 30 points on perfect 11-of-11 shooting. The reserve forward led a Spurs bench that outscored the Lakers' second unit 69-20.

LeBron James did all he could to propel the short-handed Lakers to victory, scoring a game-high 36 points alongside nine rebounds and six assists. However, the rest of the Lakers largely struggled on both ends en route to the 28-point loss.

Seven players were listed on the Lakers' injury report before the game.

Lakers big man Anthony Davis (sprained left MCL) and Kendrick Nunn (bone bruise: right knee) continued to be out with injuries. Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk and Austin Reaves were out because of the NBA's health and safety protocols.

This game also marked the last contest in Staples Center, which will go by Crypto.com Arena moving forward.

The 13-18 Spurs have won two straight games. The 16-17 Lakers have lost four consecutive contests.

    

Notable Performances

Spurs F Keita Bates-Diop: 30 points, 7 rebounds

Spurs PG Dejounte Murray: 9 points, 13 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Spurs F Keldon Johnson: 16 points, 10 rebounds

Spurs G Derrick White: 23 points, 7 assists

Spurs G Lonnie Walker IV: 21 points

Lakers F LeBron James: 36 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists

Lakers PG Russell Westbrook: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

       

Spurs' Season Turnaround Continues as Balanced Offense Overcomes Poor Lakers D

The Spurs' season got off to a rough start as they began 4-13 following a six-game losing streak. Opponents outscored San Antonio by 13.8 points during that stretch.

Thankfully, the NBA regular season has 82 games and not 17, and San Antonio has since bounced back by going 9-5 in its last 14 matchups.

The Spurs may not have an All-NBA player on their roster (although it's possible Dejounte Murray could get there someday), but this is a deep team that's getting key contributions throughout the rotation.

For example, the first half featured Jock Landale posting a team-high 11 points off the bench and Doug McDermott, Lonnie Walker IV and Bates-Diop each scoring 10. None of those players are among the top four Spurs scorers this year.

Landale also had a big bucket to close the Spurs' 33-24 first quarter with this tip-in:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

Right on time πŸ’ͺ <a href="https://t.co/EeKbY4TOyA">pic.twitter.com/EeKbY4TOyA</a>

They overcame a 2-of-10 shooting performance from leading scorer in Murray, who still contributed to the first-half onslaught with eight assists.

The Spurs also played clean and largely mistake-free basketball, committing just three turnovers to the Lakers' nine before halftime.

San Antonio's passing, movement and teamwork all took center stage in L.A. as well, with Derrick White notably finding Murray for an easy two here:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

Perfection. 🀌<br><br>That Derrick dime to DJ was EVERYTHING! <a href="https://t.co/SkD2oCNQPo">pic.twitter.com/SkD2oCNQPo</a>

Murray did an excellent job distributing, finding Bates-Diop for two of his 11 third-quarter points here:

NBA @NBA

The season of giving 🎁<br><br>Dejounte Murray's up to 12 AST through three quarters as the <a href="https://twitter.com/spurs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@spurs</a> lead on NBA League Pass: <a href="https://t.co/V0kkYEn6W6">https://t.co/V0kkYEn6W6</a> <a href="https://t.co/cUf6AixLyD">pic.twitter.com/cUf6AixLyD</a>

Moreover, they did a good job turning defense into offense, with this Murray block leading to a Keldon Johnson coast-to-coast layup:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

this sequence πŸ‘€ <a href="https://t.co/oz30YPSuYe">pic.twitter.com/oz30YPSuYe</a>

Bates-Diop took care of business on both ends too:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

DEFENSE πŸ‘πŸ‘ DEFENSE <a href="https://twitter.com/KBD_33?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KBD_33</a> gets the steal and the finish! <a href="https://t.co/LFqpwQBdzi">pic.twitter.com/LFqpwQBdzi</a>

Thanks to all these efforts, the Spurs held a 105-92 lead after three quarters. They never led by fewer than 12 points in the fourth as they kept their foot on the gas en route to an easy win.

     

Struggling Lakers Close Staples Center With a Whimper

It was an ugly first half for any Laker not named James, who had 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting (2-of-4 three-point range) at halftime.

The rest of the team had 32 points on 12-of-29 shooting (1-of-10 on three-pointers).

James also co-led the team in rebounds (six, with Dwight Howard) and paced the Lakers with four assists.

This play more or less symbolized the Lakers' first half, with James doing everything in his willpower just to score a bucket.

He took care of business himself here by spinning around White to the baseline and tossing a reverse layup over Jakob Poeltl as he hung in midair.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Quick trip to the circus πŸŽͺ<br><br>(πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/SpectrumSN?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SpectrumSN</a>) <a href="https://t.co/BBv0kHuph8">pic.twitter.com/BBv0kHuph8</a>

Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll summed up the situation well in the first half:

Harrison Faigen @hmfaigen

The only two Lakers who came to play tonight are a combined 72 years old.

The other player referenced there was Howard, who did work on the glass (nine rebounds) and added a pair of blocks. L.A. ended up outscoring San Antonio 68-50 in the paint.

Russell Westbrook got going in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his 30 points. However, the Lakers' defense had no answer for San Antonio, who scored 33 points in the first, second and fourth quarters and 39 in the third.

Bill Oram @billoram

LeBron and Russ have combined for 59 points in three quarters and the Lakers are still down 105-92 to the Spurs.

By that point, the damage was done.

The Lakers' worst defensive effort of the season, coupled with an imbalanced offense for much of the game, closed the Staples Center era with a lopsided defeat for the home side.

     

What's Next?

The Lakers are scheduled to host the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Crypto.com Arena's debut. The Spurs will host the Detroit Pistons at AT&T Center on Sunday at 7 p.m.