The San Antonio Spurs pounced quickly on the Los Angeles Lakers and cruised to a 119-98 NBA triumph at Staples Center on Sunday to close out an eight-game road trip.
“It was a good trip,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his team’s six-win circuit. “We had one bad night out of 11 or 12 days.
“I thought they maintained their focus really well, especially coming back off the (All-Star) break and playing the last couple of games. I thought we did a good job.”
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 25 points. LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and nine rebounds and Spanish big man Pau Gasol added 15 points and seven rebounds as the Spurs beat the Lakers for the eighth straight time to improve to 45-13.
They are second in the Western Conference behind the 49-9 Golden State Warriors, who became the first team to secure a playoff berth on Saturday with a 112-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Leonard reached double figures in scoring for the 87th consecutive game, the longest such streak by a Spurs player since Tim Duncan posted 91 straight in 2003.
“We started the game well by attacking them from the start,” said the Spurs’ veteran point guard Tony Parker, who chipped in eight points with eight assists. “It was important, because they’re the kind of team that when they score their first baskets get a lot of confidence.”
Brandon Ingram scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Lakers, who dropped their fourth straight.
“We didn’t get as many stops as we wanted to start the game and it kind of got out of hand early,” said D’Angelo Russell, who scored 18 points for the hosts.
Nineteen turnovers, resulting in 27 Spurs points, cost the Lakers, but coach Luke Walton was most disappointed in his team’s effort in the opening half.
“We came out today and I don’t know if it was the early start or what,” Walton said. “I love our guys and I’m supportive toward them, and I think they did a good job in the second half, but that first half, that can’t happen if we’re trying to build and trying to get somewhere.
“That was unacceptable,” he said after the Spurs built a 36-20 lead after the first quarter and never let their advantage drop below double digits the rest of the way.
The Spurs’ 37 assists were one shy of the season-high 38 they passed out against the Brooklyn Nets in December.
“Obviously it was a good trip to test ourselves and come together,” said Gasol, who played his second game after missing 15 with a broken left hand.
Join GhanaStar.com to receive daily email alerts of breaking news in Ghana. GhanaStar.com is your source for all Ghana News. Get the latest Ghana news, breaking news, sports, politics, entertainment and more about Ghana, Africa and beyond.