NBA: Lakers, Spurs clash in key playoff-positioning battle
Time is running out for the San Antonio Spurs to make a final push for a spot in the postseason, and things aren’t getting any easier as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers hit the Alamo City on Monday for a crucial Western Conference dustup.
James carried Los Angeles to a 124-116 home win over slumping Golden State on Saturday, scoring 56 points, his most as a member of the Lakers.
It was just the 19th time in NBA history a 37-year-old player scored at least 40 and the 13th time in James’ career that he’s scored 50 or more points, seventh all-time and second among active players.
“Right now, I don’t give a damn about the 56,” James said. “I’m just happy we got a win. We need pretty much all of them. I felt pretty good with my game tonight, every part of the floor, and I was able to make a couple plays to help us win. I’ll be able to sleep better tonight.”
James’ career-best points output was 61 when he played for Miami against Charlotte in 2014.
The Lakers’ win snapped a four-game losing streak and allowed Los Angeles to remain in ninth place in the West.
James added 10 rebounds in his sterling performance on Saturday. Russell Westbrook racked up 20 points, Carmelo Anthony had 14 off the bench, Malik Monk scored 12 and Austin Reaves hit for 10 for the Lakers.
“He forced his will and had his hands on the game at all levels,” Westbrook said of James. “It was really big, especially tonight in a game like this where we needed to win. We will now get ready and be ready to go on Monday.”
The Spurs have lost four straight games, including a 123-117 setback in Charlotte on Saturday. San Antonio, which is in 12th place in the West and 3 1/2 games out of the 10th spot and a berth in the play-in tournament, wasted a career-high 33 points from Keldon Johnson in the defeat.
“We played hard, but sometimes it doesn’t go our way,” Johnson said after the loss. “That’s not going to break us. We’re going to come back and compete until we break through.”
Dejounte Murray had 25 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds, just missing a triple-double. Devin Vassell added 14 points, Jakob Poeltl scored 11 points and Josh Primo had 10 for San Antonio in the defeat.
The Spurs are 0-33 this season when trailing after three quarters and are 3-36 when trailing by 10 or more points in a game. San Antonio has been behind by at least 10 in each of the contests during its current losing streak.
“They played hard enough to win, they competed well enough to win,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said of his team. “Just the end of quarters are still a learning situation for us.”
The Spurs’ recent losing streak has Popovich stuck at 1,334 regular season wins, one shy of matching Don Nelson’s all-time NBA record. Monday’s game is the start of a crucial seven-game homestand for San Antonio.
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