The Lakers (2-2) hit the road for the first time this regular season for a set of games at San Antonio (2-1) with a 5:30 p.m. tip on Spectrum SportsNet.
Below are three things to know about the matchup:
LAL WILL MISS THE CARUSHOW
Alex Caruso did not make the road trip to San Antonio due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which will keep him out of Wednesday’s and Friday’s games against the Spurs. There will be an update later this week as to whether or not Caruso can join the team in Memphis for a second set of road games against the Grizzlies on Sunday and Tuesday.
Caruso also missed L. A.’s last game, a narrow loss against Portland, in which his defensive skillset could have been particularly utilized against the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum guard tandem. Caruso hit five of the seven shots he attempted in wins over Minnesota and Dallas, and was typically impactful on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite playing limited minutes due to Frank Vogel’s expanded rotation after the shortened offseason and training camp, Caruso is among the players his coaching staff and teammates trust the most, as witnessed by his starting Game 6 of the Finals on Oct. 11. He’ll certainly be missed against the Spurs, who’ve gotten strong starts from DeMar DeRozan (21.0 points per game, 9.0 assists) and Dejounte Murray (15.0 points, 7.3 assists) in the backcourt.
AD’S BOUNCE BACK?
Just like the Lakers rarely lose back-to-back games in 2019-20, Anthony Davis rarely had consecutive performances below his typically excellent level of production. Coming off a 13-point effort in the loss to Portland in which he’d taken only four shots by halftime, expect Davis to be more aggressive early against the Spurs.
“I’ve got to score the ball,” Davis allowed after the game. “It’s as simple as that. Obviously I was trying to make plays and find my rhythm with the team, especially since they played so well yesterday; you never want to come back where guys are force feeding you and trying to get you the ball so you can make shots.”
Of course, Davis can never be too aggressive, such is his skillset and ability on offense. You’ll never hear Vogel, LeBron or any of his teammates complain when he’s in attack mode on offense. Meanwhile, Davis also has another level to reach on defense, where he’s yet to notch a blocked shot through three games. Though he’s often finding himself defending stretch four types like Robert Covington, he still has the ability to impact the rim from the weak side.
AD mentioned that most of the guys he’s been guarding so far this season have been small, and pulling him away from the bucket. Kawhi/Patterson, Covington, Finney-Smith/Powell, etc.; When he’s at the 5, that happens less, as we saw in the playoffs.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 29, 2020
Davis has repeatedly mentioned how brief the offseason was after his first championship, and it shouldn’t surprise that he’s still rounding into his MVP-caliber form after the truncated preseason in which he played two games. But it’s only a matter of time for him to really get going, and that could come as early as Wednesday night against LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poelt, Rudy Gay and the Spurs.
THE RUNNING, GUNNING SPURS?
Anything at this point of the season blares a “Small sample size!” label, but through three games, the Spurs are running and gunning, ranking fifth in the NBA in pace and pushing tempo where they can. They scored 131 and 119 points in wins over Memphis and Toronto before New Orleans slowed them down with a 98-95 loss on Sunday, with DeRozan and Murray pushing the ball up in transition, and Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker sprinting up the wings like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does for the Lakers.
The Lakers have actually outscored the Spurs, 120.3 per game (2nd in the NBA) to 115.0 (10th), but they rank 14th in pace, instead scoring efficiently around the hoop and shooting well from three. L. A. are actually sixth in 3-point percentage (39.2 percent) compared to San Antonio’s 12th (36.8 percent) one year after SAS finished fourth at 37.6 percent to L.A.’s 21st (34.9 percent).
Pace is one thing, but where the Lakers killed teams last season was in transition, as they got stops and efficiently turned them into points on the other end. So far this season, the Lakers and Spurs are 9th and 10th in percentage of points that come on the fast break, at 14.5 and 14.1 percent, and rank 7th (LAL) and 8th (SAS) in fastbreak points. As such, whoever’s able to get out and run and finish more in transition could have the edge in Wednesday’s battle.
Finally: LeBron James turns 36 today, and figures to want to celebrate his day of birth with a win.
This Post was originally published on nba.com