The scuffling Los Angeles Lakers will look to avoid their fifth straight loss when they travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs Wednesday night on ESPN. The Lakers have not lost five straight games since April 2011.
Los Angeles will be on the second of a back-to-back, having lost 125-112 on Tuesday night in Houston. With Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill sidelined with injuries, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was forced to go with Robert Sacre and Darius Morris in the starting lineup. The Lakers actually started out strong with those guys, but the thin bench was manhandled all night long by the Rockets.
Howard, Gasol and Hill will all be out once again on Wednesday night against the Spurs, which does not bode well for the Lakers' chances. While San Antonio is coming off a loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, the Spurs are still third in the Western Conference with a record of 27-10. Furthermore, San Antonio is healthy and boasts one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
One of the Lakers' biggest issues this season, even when mostly healthy, has been their porous defense. Los Angeles is 26th in the league in points allowed at 101.5 per game and tied for 20th in defensive efficiency. Facing the Spurs will certainly not help matters, as San Antonio is third in the league in scoring at 104.9 points per game and fifth in offensive efficiency.
With their frontline decimated by injury, the Lakers' defensive troubles will likely be accentuated even more against the Spurs, thanks to the incredible resurgence of Tim Duncan. After seeing his numbers dip a bit the past few seasons, Duncan has rebounded this year in a big way. The 36-year-old is averaging 17.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks on 50.9 percent shooting in a shade under 30 minutes per game. Duncan's 25.18 PER is good for sixth best in the league, and according to NBA.com, the Spurs are 7.3 points per 100 possessions better with Duncan on the court as opposed to off.
The only real big man who played for the Lakers against the Rockets on Tuesday was Sacre, who scored 10 points and grabbed just three rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark also saw extended time in the froncourt, but those guys are both more perimeter oriented players and usually do not play all that much to begin with. Thus, keeping Duncan out of the paint could be a huge problem for Los Angeles.
Based on how many Lakers games have gone this year, it would be pretty safe to expect a shootout, even with all the injuries. The Spurs have been solid defensively all year, but any team with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on it is dangerous offensively. The question is if Los Angeles can actually do enough defensively to hold San Antonio to a reasonable number.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.