Kyle Kuzma handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 7, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Floodgates Open in 4th Quarter of Lakers' Loss to Spurs

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Two days after the Lakers mounted a fourth-quarter comeback at the Spurs’ expense, the roles flipped in Texas.

The purple and gold led by 10 points entering the final frame, but San Antonio roared back, using a 44-point period to capture a 133-120 victory.

“We wanted to even the series up versus this team, but give all the credit to them,” LeBron James said. “They executed very well. That second unit came in and gave them a lot of life in that fourth quarter and turned it around.”

Per usual, James — who dropped 42 on San Antonio on Wednesday — was the best player on the floor for most of the night, racking up 35 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, making his mark by attacking the basket and playmaking in transition.

However, he shot just 1-of-6 in the fourth, while the Lakers’ struggles extended well beyond their leader. In fact, L.A.’s woes mostly came on the defensive side.

“We couldn’t guard pick-and-roll,” Lonzo Ball said. “That’s what it came down to.”

The Lakers’ opted for an aggressive pick-and-roll coverage, often blitzing the Spurs’ ball handlers. But the pressure wasn’t enough, as San Antonio constantly found the open man, mainly Jakob Poeltl, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth.

Poeltl and Davis Bertans — who had 13 points and four 3-pointers in the fourth — led a spirited effort by the Spurs’ bench, which outscored the Lakers’ on the night, 54-26.

While those backup bigs rallied the Spurs, a familiar foe provided the dagger.

L.A. native DeMar DeRozan — who scored 30-plus in all four games against the Lakers this season — went off for 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. He constantly got to the line (14-of-18 on free throws) and thrived off drives and difficult mid-rangers, reaching his tally without a 3-point attempt.

“DeMar DeRozan was able to eat off of our switches and get smaller defenders on him,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Made some incredible shots, tough fadeaways. He’s an incredible player. He’s gonna do that [from] time to time.”

San Antonio’s 44-21 fourth quarter was extra irritating considering how well the Lakers (15-10) played for the majority of the game.

Kuzma was sizzling for most of the night, dropping 27 points and eight rebounds, as his in-between game was on full display. The sophomore — who has scored 20-plus in three straight — made seven floaters and a hook shot among his 12 buckets.

And while Ball shot just 5-of-16 from the field, he did an excellent job of distributing with a 13-point, 11-assist double-double. The young point guard often linked up with James, as the duo became the first pair of Lakers teammates with double-digit assists in the same game since Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in 2013.

But the Lakers did miss the services of Brandon Ingram, who did not travel on the two-game road trip due to a sprained left ankle. Ingram’s length made him the Lakers’ preferred defender against DeRozan, who ensured that San Antonio (12-14) avenged last year’s sweep by taking the season series, three games to one.

Notes
L.A.’s Isaac Bonga, the youngest player in the NBA, made his career debut in the game’s final minute. … Josh Hart (seven points, five rebounds) started in place of Ingram. … JaVale McGee had a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double. … The Spurs shot 50.5 percent from the field and 41.9 on 3-pointers. … The Lakers scored 20 fast-break points in the first half, but only two in the second.

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