Six-game stretch could make or break season for 14th-place Spurs
Spurs get chance to avenge Wednesday’s loss to Lakers.
Over much of the previous few weeks, the talk in Los Angeles was about LeBron James’ high usage rate and heavy workload.
Isn’t he having to break too much of a sweat for a 34-year-old accustomed to easing into seasons in the Eastern Conference?
James’ new Lakers teammates consider that debate closed after what he did to the Spurs in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
“People should really stop criticizing, shut Spurs Insider Falls City 30, Burton 28 up and witness greatness when it’s happening,” guard Josh Hart said.
The Spurs, meanwhile, saw enough of James’ greatness in the final 12 minutes at the Staples Center to last a lifetime.
James scored 20 of his 42 points in the final frame Wednesday, rescuing the Lakers in a 121-113 victory and sending the Spurs home from another road trip winless.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, greatness is now coming to them. They kick off a six-game homestand tonight against the same team led by the same player who tormented them down the stretch in Los Angeles.
“It sucks like hell to lose, especially when everybody’s fighting so hard,” guard DeMar DeRozan said. “We’ve got to stay positive and understand as long as we keep at it, the basketball gods are going to turn in our favor.”
They better hope so. It’s not even Christmas, and the Spurs already face what might be a make-or-break homestand.
They are 11-14, in 14th place in the 15-team Western Conference, and haven’t won two games in a row since ending a four-game winning streak Nov. 4.
If the Spurs are going to start stacking up wins and punch their way into the playoff picture, now seems as good a time as any.
“The Western Conference is stacked,” said forward Rudy Gay, who followed a scoreless game in
the Spurs’ 139-105 defeat in Utah with a 31-point effort against the Lakers. “I think everybody is beating up on each other. If we can get a couple games, we’ll be right back where we want to be.”
After playing 10 of the previous 14 games on the road, the Spurs can at last unpack a while.
The Spurs take on the Lakers, the Jazz and the surprising Los Angeles Clippers, and also face two teams with worse records than their own in Chicago and Phoenix. The Spurs close the homestand against Philadelphia on Dec. 17.
On the surface, the next 10 days present an opportunity to steady the ship and build momentum. On the flip side, if the Spurs can’t make progress toward .500 now, when will they ever?
“We’ve got to take full advantage of it,” DeRozan said. “You just chip at it one game at a time. Before you know it, you’ll look up and April will be here. As long as we keep working hard, we’ll be on the right side of the win column.”
It has been more than a decade since the Spurs faced such earlyseason adversity.
The last time the Spurs were three games under .500 was November 2008. They began that season without Manu Ginobili, who was recovering from ankle surgery a few months before.
Ginobili eventually returned, and the Spurs rallied to win 54 games. There is no such future Hall of Famer riding to the Spurs’ rescue in 2018.
“No one is happy with losing,” center LaMarcus Aldridge said. “Everybody is trying to do their part and get better. It’s a different team, a new makeup, and we’ve got to figure it out.”
The Lakers went through their own set of growing pains earlier in the season, and seem to have survived.
Struggling to reinvent themselves around James, the Lakers went just 3-5 in October. A contentious Nov. 5 meeting between coach Luke Walton and president Magic Johnson only amplified the pressure in Los Angeles.
After beating the Spurs on Wednesday, the Lakers have won 11 of 14 and have climbed within two games of first place in the West.
Walton said his team has done
DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs had no answer Wednesday as LeBron James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter.