Lakers can’t keep up with Spurs as Staples Center era ends with lopsided loss Kyle Goon %%item_date%% %%item_source%%
LOS ANGELES — It was fitting that on Thursday night, the Lakers as a franchise were largely looking back fondly on their 22 seasons at Staples Center.

It’s hard to feel as warm about the immediate future.

The San Antonio Spurs (13-18) ran over the Lakers, 138-110, in a game that never felt particularly close. LeBron James scored 36 points, Russell Westbrook had 30, but the supporting cast fell flat, with the Spurs’ bench outscoring their Lakers counterparts 69-20 and the Lakers surrendering the most points they’ve given up in regulation this season.

It was striking how the Spurs, who the Lakers beat with ease on Nov. 14, decimated the short-handed Lakers, hitting 18 3-pointers against their discombobulated defense.

The four-game slide is the longest of the season so far, and while the Lakers (16-17) might have better than a puncher’s chance against the similarly banged-up Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day, the one-sided loss on Thursday night painted a grim portrait of the franchise’s circumstances. They are winless since All-Star big man Anthony Davis sprained his knee in Minnesota, an injury that is expected to keep him out for at least one month.

The Lakers could not capitalize on a valiant effort by their healthy stars. James scored 23 of the team’s first 45 points while burying shots and driving in for kick-outs at a superstar level. But it was clear early on – as San Antonio buried their hosts in a barrage of 3-point baskets – that another one of his big performances would be in a vacuum.

Westbrook also started to rally in the third quarter, when he scored 17 of his points while sprinting headlong toward the rim. The peak of this flurry was still frustratingly far out of reach of the Spurs: In quick succession, Westbrook scored on an and-one drive, then got the crowd rolling with a 3-pointer from the wing to cut the stubborn Spurs’ lead to nine.

But San Antonio, which led by double digits for the majority of the night, took both punches in stride. The Spurs answered the baskets with a 3-pointer and a reverse layup by Keita Bates-Diop, who finished with 30 points.

Coming off the bench, Bates-Diop hit all 11 of his shots, including five 3-pointers. He outscored the Lakers reserves by himself. The Spurs’ bench had 69 points total, highlighting just how thin the Lakers’ rotation has become, largely due to positive coronavirus tests.

The Lakers had five players in the COVID-19 protocols on Thursday night: Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, Austin Reaves, Kent Bazemore and Trevor Ariza. Ariza was only added on Thursday morning after playing his first two games of the season following a preseason ankle injury. Considering Ariza started the season 5 for 5 from the field, it was clear the Lakers could have used his stroke.

More to come on this story.

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