LeBron James Scores 42 Points, Leads Lakers to Win over DeMar DeRozan, Spurs

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 6, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 5: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on December 5, 2018 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 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

LeBron James had 42 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma added 22 points as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 121-113, on Wednesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 32 points, while Rudy Gay had 31.

James scored 20 points and added three assists in the fourth quarter. He also went on a personal 9-0 run to turn a 95-87 deficit into a 96-95 lead.

As implied by his stats, James' fourth-quarter highlight reel was remarkable:

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San Antonio has lost four of its last five games to drop to 11-14. The Lakers improved to 15-9 after finishing a sweep of their four-game homestand.

                     

It's Still Too Early to Write Off the Spurs

While the Spurs are just 11-14 through 25 games, don't count them out just yet.

First, the Spurs are only two games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Granted, eight NBA teams from seventh through 14th in the West are separated by 2.5 games, so the Spurs have to jump over a large group.

However, the season is barely 25 percent over. The Spurs have plenty of time to enter playoff positioning and improve their seeding if they crawl into the top eight.

Second, Gregg Popovich is still around. A five-time NBA champion, Popovich has led his Spurs teams to the playoffs every season since 1997-98. He has won 69 percent of his regular-season games as San Antonio's leader and will go down as one of the greatest coaches in American sports when he's finished.

While Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aren't walking through that door, Popovich has worked his magic in previous seasons. Of note, he somehow led the Spurs to a 47-35 record and postseason appearance last year despite having superstar forward Kawhi Leonard for just nine games.

Third, LaMarcus Aldridge no longer stands alone as the team's go-to scorer on a nightly basis, like he did last season with no other Spur posting more than 11.5 points per game.

DeMar DeRozan has been excellent in San Antonio, averaging 24.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds. The former two figures lead the team. DeRozan's playmaking ability is a pleasant surprise and could be a vital asset as the season progresses.

The Spurs' problem is that their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly year to year, in part because shutdown defender Dejounte Murray suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and is out for the season. San Antonio ranked second-to-last in that stat leading into Wednesday, per ESPN.com.

However, Wednesday's game showed why the offense could help make up for their deficiencies on the defensive end, especially if Gay provides some more offensive outputs akin to what he produced against L.A.

Even though the Spurs lost, they hung tough with a scorching-hot Lakers team for four quarters on the road, which is a clear positive despite the disappointing loss.

               

Tyson Chandler's Tremendous Impact Can't Be Captured by Box Scores

Veteran center Tyson Chandler signed with the Lakers on November 6 after being waived by the Phoenix Suns.

Los Angeles is 11-3 since his arrival, which is the NBA's best record during that span.

Chandler is averaging just 3.6 points and 7.4 rebounds with L.A. However, his impact is felt far behind the box score, as evidenced by his Wednesday performance.

Check out this screen set on Gay, for instance, which freed Kuzma to drive down the lane:

While Kuzma didn't score on that possession, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope eventually did thanks to Chandler's assistance.

With 3:26 left in the first half, Caldwell-Pope missed a three-pointer from the elbow. He corralled the long rebound but lost his balance and started falling out of bounds.

However, Chandler was in the right place at the right time for Caldwell-Pope to toss him the ball as a safety valve to keep the possession alive. Chandler then immediately dished the ball back and shielded Caldwell-Pope as he hit a corner three.

The 18-year veteran finished the game with an eye-popping plus-27 mark, which easily led the team.

Chandler also has a game-changing impact on the defensive end. Leading into Wednesday, the Lakers allowed just 93.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per NBA.com. Without him, that number balloons to 103.6 points per 100 possessions, or a 10.1-point difference.

To put that number in further context, the rotation player with the second-best defensive rating is Josh Hart, and the team allows 101 points per possession with him on the court.

While Chandler isn't going to play 30-plus minutes per night like his earlier days, he can close out games and come through in the clutch, like when he blocked Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young's game-winning layup attempt on November 11.

Ultimately, Chandler could be a valuable postseason piece as the Lakers look to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

      

What's Next

The Spurs and Lakers will finish off the second half of a home-and-home set when San Antonio hosts L.A. on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

       

Where to Watch: NBA broadcasts are available through fuboTV.

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