LOS ANGELES (AP) Although his San Antonio Spurs have the NBA’s best record and the longest active winning streak after four weeks of unbeaten basketball, coach Gregg Popovich can always find areas of imperfection.
The Spurs’ defensive performance against the woeful Los Angeles Lakers made it easy this time.
Tony Parker scored 25 points, Kawhi Leonard added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Spurs beat the Lakers 125-109 Wednesday night for their 11th consecutive victory.
Danny Green scored 16 points and Tim Duncan had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the NBA-leading Spurs, who haven’t lost since Feb. 21 while winning 14 of 15. San Antonio managed to hold off a decent challenge from the Lakers with strong shooting down the stretch and 14 second-half points from Leonard, but Popovich wasn’t overly impressed.
”Probably the only thing I liked is that they hung in there,” Popovich said. ”I thought we played really porous defense. I thought a lot of that was because L.A. was very aggressive. They were in attack mode, and I don’t think we adjusted to it until maybe the end of the third quarter. From that point, I thought our defense was very good.”
Green and Manu Ginobili hit three 3-pointers apiece for the Spurs, who opened a three-game California road trip by calmly matching their longest winning streak of the season. Parker took charge after halftime, scoring eight points in the third quarter and catalyzing San Antonio’s offense in the fourth.
”We have to give a lot of credit to the Lakers,” Parker said. ”It took a lot of energy for us to win. We have to play better.”
With their seventh straight victory over the Lakers dating to last season’s playoffs, the Spurs opened a 1 1/2-game lead over Indiana for the league’s best record. San Antonio leads Oklahoma City by two games atop the Western Conference.
”The Spurs are a fine-tuned machine,” said Lakers center Robert Sacre, who had a career-high 11 rebounds. ”They have all the pieces to make it work, and if one guy goes down, they have someone to fill that spot.”
Xavier Henry scored 24 points and Pau Gasol had 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the Lakers’ sixth loss in seven games.
A few hours after longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson got a standing ovation across the continent at his first game at the New York Knicks’ top basketball boss, his fiancee, Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, watched Los Angeles stumble to its 20th loss in 26 games.
”It was a tough way to go out, but we fought,” Henry said. ”You could tell from the jump that we really wanted it. About six minutes in, the guys really pushed the tempo and really gave them a run.”
Kent Bazemore scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers for the Lakers, who hadn’t played since their 34-point loss at San Antonio five days earlier. That win was the biggest in this long-standing rivalry for the Spurs, who have followed up last spring’s four-game playoff sweep of Los Angeles with three straight wins this season.
”In the last game, the effort wasn’t there and the toughness wasn’t there, and we got beat by a lot,” Lakers forward Ryan Kelly said. ”We realized we can’t play that way, and tonight was different. We have to build off this and play like this all the time so that we put ourselves in a position to win some games.”
Green hit five of the Spurs’ 13 3-pointers in last week’s blowout, but the Lakers largely kept up with powerful San Antonio in the rematch. Los Angeles led for stretches of the third quarter before San Antonio scored 18 points in roughly 3 1/2 minutes with big baskets from Parker and Leonard.
The Lakers yielded 100 points for the 12th consecutive game and gave up 110 for the seventh straight game. Los Angeles is the Western Conference’s worst defensive team.
NOTES: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Baron Davis and new Oakland Raiders left tackle Donald Penn attended the game. … The Lakers will be without G Jordan Farmar for at least two weeks while he recovers from a moderate groin strain. Los Angeles still is without G Nick Young (sore left knee), F Jordan Hill (sore right knee) and G Steve Nash. … The Spurs, who have no currently injured players, have missed 83 games due to injury this season. The Lakers have missed 260. … San Antonio will attempt to sweep the clubs’ season series when they meet in Texas on April 16 in both teams’ regular-season finale.