Los Angeles Lakers vs San Antonio Spurs: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/3/18
The Lakers are surging while the Spurs are dropping, and San Antonio will be desperate for a victory at home as they jostle for a playoff position
San Antonio were the latest victim of the surging Pelicans on Wednesday, going down 116-121 to New Orleans. LaMarcus Aldridge clocked just 13 minutes in the game after spraining his ankle, and he is listed as questionable for the Spurs upcoming game.
San Antonio are slowly dropping down the pecking order in the Western Conference standings. They have lost seven of their past nine games to move to fifth place, with a record of 36-26. A win is needed to turn things around, but it won’t come easy against a Lakers side who are playing their best basketball of the season.
Los Angeles have won their past four games and are 12-5 going back to mid-January. The run has come too late, as they are still six games outside of a playoff spot, but the form of their young players will have filled Lakers fans with optimism.
The latest victory was a dominant 131-113 win over the Miami Heat. Julius Randle continued to impress with 25 points, while Isaiah Thomas played his best game all season, dropping in 29 points and dishing out six assists off the bench.
Three keys to the game
Form – There is no doubt the Spurs are the better side in this game, but if we confine our analysis to the past ten games, things look a little different. In this time, the Lakers are 7-3, boast the sixth best offense in the league with an offensive rating of 113.1, and a solid defensive rating of 106.5. Their net rating of 6.6 is the sixth best in the NBA over that period. In contrast, the Spurs are 3-7, and with a net rating of 0.3, are a league average team in the same time-span. They concede 109.2 points per 100 possessions, placing them in the bottom ten in the NBA in defense over this period.
Home court advantage – One thing that is in the Spurs’ favor in this game is the location of the game. San Antonio have been significantly better at home this season, winning 22 of their 29 games at the AT&T Center. The Lakers have been bad on the road, too, posting a 12-20 record in their 32 games away from Staples Center.
Aldridge’s health – In the absence of Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge has been by far the Spurs’ most important player this season. Averaging 22.5 points per game, he has carried their offense this season and was rewarded with an All-Star selection. If he misses out, the Spurs’ offense will take a big hit.
Matchup to watch
LaMarcus Aldridge vs Julius Randle – Assuming the big Spur does play, he will engage in an enthralling battle with Randle. Randle is averaging a career-high 14.9 points on a career-high 56.2% shooting this season, but of late he has stepped up even further. In his past ten games, he is averaging exactly 20.0 points per game while shooting an enormous 64% from the floor and has been a major reason for the Lakers recent upturn in play. Aldridge has been superb himself though, and in February averaged 25.8 points, shooting 58.1% from the floor. These in-form big men have different game styles, but both are in terrific form and will play a huge role in the outcome of the game – assuming Aldridge is fit.
San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup
PG – Patty Mills | SG – Dejounte Murray | SF – Kyle Anderson | PF – LaMarcus Aldridge | C – Davis Bertans
Los Angeles Lakers predicted starting lineup
PG – Lonzo Ball | SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | SF – Brandon Ingram | PF – Julius Randle | C – Brook Lopez
Aldridge has matched up 39 times against the Lakers and has been solid in these games. He averages 19.2 points per night in these matchups, to go with 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and just under a steal and a block.
Ball had one of the better games of his young career when these sides met earlier in the season. He shot 7-for-11 from the floor and 4-for-7 from 3-point range on the way to 18 points, grabbed ten rebounds (including four at the offensive end), six assists, and a huge four steals.
The Lakers have been given a 4.5 point head start by oddsmakers, and expect the Spurs to cover this, albeit by a narrow margin. Los Angeles are playing well, but these odds are too affected by form – San Antonio should be able to beat a significantly lower quality team by more than four points on their home floor.
The Spurs will get their season back on track in this game. Recent form suggests that the Lakers are a huge chance to steal a victory, but San Antonio are a well-coached lineup who love to play at home, and that will be enough to get them over the line.
If Aldridge doesn’t play, it will be significantly tougher, but expect him to be fit and make a valuable contribution at the offensive end of the floor. The Spurs will run out winners in a close one with a 107-102 victory.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSSW and SPECSN. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.