As three pieces of the Lakers’ young core went down throughout the course of the afternoon, the team relied on an unheralded mid-season acquisition to lead them in San Antonio.
And Tyler Ennis sure delivered. The 22-year-old scored a career-high 19 points with six assists, as the Lakers ended their eight-game losing streak against the Spurs with a 102-95 victory.
With D’Angelo Russell out due to a sore knee, Ennis slid in as the Lakers’ starting point guard and helped the purple and gold out to their most dominant start of the season.
Los Angeles (23-55) finished the first quarter on a 17-2 run and then scored the opening nine points of the second to push their lead to 40-14 against the team with the second-best record in the NBA.
“That started on the defensive end for us,” said Jordan Clarkson, who scored 17 points. “Really communicating, moving, switching, forcing them into tough shots.”
But the Lakers had to play the rest of the game without Brandon Ingram, who was shut down after his eight-point first quarter.
And though they took a six-point lead into the fourth, they also lost Clarkson after he banged his knee against an opposing player.
The Spurs (60-18) nearly took advantage of this attrition.
Less than a minute into the final period, they tied the game at 76 before L.A. responded with a 9-2 burst.
Still, San Antonio clawed back with a 13-2 run that brought the Lakers’ lead down to five with 1:19 left before David Nwaba’s tip dunk sealed the win.
“Our defense was awesome,” head coach Luke Walton said. “San Antonio was incredible. Just watching them move the ball — even when they weren’t making buckets — it’s really impressive. (Our) guys that were out there tonight really did a heck of a job of being the aggressors and talking and switching.”
While the Lakers’ decisions to sit Clarkson and Ingram were largely precautionary, the Spurs also played it safe by limiting the likes of MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol to fewer than 19 minutes apiece.
Instead, Tony Parker and Davis Bertans led San Antonio with 14 points each. The Spurs enjoyed a 13-7 advantage in made 3-pointers, but were overthrown down low.
Led by Larry Nance Jr. (15 points, nine rebounds), the Lakers outscored them in the paint, 58-48, and had a 47-37 rebounding advantage.
Nwaba (10 points) immediately made the three-hour drive from San Antonio to Hidalgo, Texas, in order to play for the D-Fenders in Friday’s D-League playoff game against Rio Grande Valley. … Since Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson did not play tonight, Corey Brewer became the NBA’s iron man with 273 consecutive games played. … An audience of 18,418 sold out AT&T Center.
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