DeMar DeRozan, Spurs Beat LeBron James, Lakers; Lonzo Ball Double-Doubles

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 8, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs scores on a jumper over Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 121-113 Laker win at Staples Center on December 5, 2018 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.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

DeMar DeRozan had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers 133-120 on Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Seven other Spurs scored 10 or more points as the team shot 50.5 percent from the field.

LeBron James had 35 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the 15-10 Lakers, who split their home-and-home set with the 12-14 Spurs. Lonzo Ball finished with 13 points and 11 assists.

       

Carmelo Anthony Wouldn't Fix Lakers Bench

The Houston Rockets "parted ways" with forward Carmelo Anthony on Nov. 15 after he'd played just 10 games with the team. While Anthony is still technically a member of the team, his basketball future will be elsewhere.

Anthony was recently connected to the Lakers. Per Joe Vardon of The Athletic, James wants Melo to join him in L.A. However, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that the team does not have interest in bringing him in.

Although Anthony is a shoo-in Hall of Famer someday, it's probably for the best that he doesn't play in purple and gold.

Despite the loss, the Lakers are 11-4 in their past 15 games. There isn't much reason to bring in anyone else when the team is firing on all cylinders.

While L.A.'s second unit could use more offense as evidenced by the Spurs' reserves outscoring the Lakers bench, 54-26, Anthony may not be a good fit for the team. 

According to Basketball Reference, Anthony had a career-worst 115 defensive rating with the Rockets. Four of his five worst defensive performances per that metric have come in the last five seasons.

While Anthony's calling card has never been defense, the Lakers' second unit is making a name for itself with solid defensive efforts thanks largely to center Tyson Chandler. L.A. is also ninth in defensive efficiency overall, and bringing in Anthony will not improve that standing.

He could provide bench scoring, but the Lakers need three-point shooting more than anything. L.A. is 20th in three-point percentage, and only three teams currently in playoff positioning rank worse. Anthony lives in the mid-range and has shot just 34.7 percent from three for his career.

Ultimately, Anthony would probably be a better fit elsewhere.

               

Spurs Facing Inevitable Letdown If Defense Doesn't Improve

Although the Spurs' 12-14 start is undoubtedly disappointing and could lead to no playoffs for the first time since 1997, they shouldn't be counted out just yet with the Western Conference's current owner of the eighth and final playoff spot (the Sacramento Kings) having just one more win.

Still, the Spurs aren't going anywhere if their leaky defense doesn't improve.

San Antonio's defensive efficiency rating has taken a precipitous drop from fourth to 29th year over year. The problem is the answer may not be on the active roster. Point guard Dejounte Murray led all qualified point guards in defensive real plus-minus by a significant margin, per ESPN, but he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and is out for the year.

This season, the Spurs only have active one rotation player (forward Rudy Gay) ranked in the top 150 overall in defensive real plus-minus.

The other issue is that most of the league's better offenses can be found in the Western Conference, whose teams make up the majority of the Spurs' schedule. Not counting San Antonio, nine Western teams are ranked in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency, with seven in the top 11.

The good news is that Gregg Popovich, who is one of the best head coaches in NBA history, is still leading the way and knows a thing or two about coaching good defenses. Perhaps he and his staff can figure something out and turn it around.

However, a good offense can only take the Spurs so far in a West filled with tremendous scoring talent. San Antonio can't look to win shootouts every night, so the defense needs to improve for the Spurs to make the playoffs.

               

What's Next

The Spurs host the Utah Jazz on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET., while the Lakers play at the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

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