Dwight Howard
(Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Supporting cast shines as Lakers extend winning streak to 5

by Rodrigo Azurmendi
Staff Writer

Stars in their roles.

That’s exactly what the Lakers had in San Antonio on Sunday evening, with three key members of their supporting cast shining bright and guiding L.A. to its fifth consecutive win.

Dwight Howard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Avery Bradley. Everyone knows exactly what LeBron James and Anthony Davis will give the Lakers night in and night out, but the true ceiling of this team will be defined throughout the season by the contributions of their wily veterans.

And the Lakers, after leading by 19 points in the third quarter, sure needed every last bit of aid.

“We had a few guys make some timely offensive plays,” said head coach Frank Vogel. “Avery Bradley was great offensively during a stretch where we were struggling. Dwight obviously came up with some big buckets and played a terrific game on both ends and KCP probably hit the 2 biggest shots of the game. For a guy that’s been struggling out the gates, it was great to see him step up at a time when we needed him.”

Howard was especially efficient, finishing with 14 points and 13 boards with a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in under 21 minutes. Even more impressive was his timing, as the 15-year veteran saved his best for when it mattered most, leading L.A. with 10 in the fourth quarter.

The Atlanta native was crucial in closing out the win, anchoring the defense with a pair of blocks, intimidating San Antonio on the boards and even providing a healthy dose of offense courtesy of some thunderous dunks and putbacks.

“We got great looks, and anytime we missed, Superman was there to clean up the offensive glass — tips, dunks, lobs, everything,” James pointed out. “He was great tonight.”

He even showed some sneaky court vision and passing accuracy, as evidenced by this high-low beauty to AD:

Howard's influence on the game can’t be overstated. The Spurs scored just 14 points in his 8:55 shift in the second quarter, and Howard was key in establishing the defensive intensity that the Lakers carried into the second half.

Right there with him was Bradley, this time also showing some scoring chops. The former Celtic dropped 16 points on just 9 field goal attempts, helping to make up for the off-shooting nights from more regular contributors like Danny Green or Kyle Kuzma.

His mid-range jumper was money throughout the game, and he looked comfortable putting the ball on the deck whenever he was chased away from the corners. Bradley wound up missing most of the fourth with a lower right leg contusion, but his X-rays were negative and he’s now day-to-day.

San Antonio never went away though, even when the game seemed to be on the brink of a blowout in the third period, eventually tying it at 90 with 4:10 to go in the fourth.

In came KCP to the rescue, with a pair of jumpers sandwiched around a key Howard block. His personal 5-0 run was capped by this 26-foot bomb that had Snoop Dogg – in town cheering on the purple and gold – celebrating on the sideline.

Make sure to note the assist from a certain King James, who now has back-to-back triple-doubles after chipping in 21 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. The last Lakers to do it on consecutive games? Lamar Odom, back in 2006.

Davis also had an ultra efficient 25-and-11 night despite facing double and triple teams – and a maze reaching arms that allowed the Spurs to force 18 turnovers and generate 23 points off of them.

Therein lies the rub too, with the Lakers notching a very impressive road victory despite middling peripherals. L.A. made just 6 threes and shot 25% from beyond the arc. On top of the turnovers, they only managed 15 fast break points and attempted only 23 free throws.

After all, the ability to win ugly and on the road is one of the biggest indicators of growth. LeBron summarized it best:

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