Aldridge scores 23 as Spurs hold off upstart Lakers, 116-107
LOS ANGELES (AP) Gregg Popovich emerged from his first look at the revamped Los Angeles Lakers with enormous respect for the work of fellow coach Luke Walton.
Popovich's veteran San Antonio Spurs also showed Walton's Lakers just how far they've still got to go.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points and Kawhi Leonard added 23 points and 12 rebounds in the Spurs' fifth straight victory Friday night, 116-107 over the Lakers.
Tony Parker had 16 points and seven assists for the Spurs, who improved to 7-0 on the road this season. They've won six straight over the Lakers, but this back-and-forth victory bore little resemblance to San Antonio's regular demolitions of the Lakers over the previous few seasons.
''Luke has done a great job of making them believe and playing aggressively, and you can really see it,'' said Popovich, who earned his 1,099th win to pass Larry Brown for seventh place on the NBA's career list. ''They came back and stuck it to us. … We got after it and executed better, but I am just so impressed with what (Walton) has done with this group.''
Pau Gasol scored 16 points in his first trip to Staples Center with the Spurs, who went 18 for 19 at the free throw line to hang on after the Lakers rallied late. Parker hit a clinching 17-foot jumper with 33.6 seconds left.
''They're talented,'' Parker said of the Lakers. ''They play hard for Luke. They play with great energy, and they have a lot of pieces. Now it's all about chemistry and how they're going to gel.''
Lou Williams scored 24 points and Nick Young added 20 for the Lakers, who played without injured leading scorer D'Angelo Russell for the first time this season. Los Angeles still kept it close until the final minutes, when Aldridge and Leonard took turns hitting big shots before Parker's big bucket.
''We cooled off a little bit (in the third quarter), and they just continued to go, which is what they do,'' Walton said. ''The important thing to take away is how we come back from this, how we respond.''
Jordan Clarkson scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half while the Lakers rallied. Williams also came off the bench in another enormous game by the team's reserves, who lead the league in bench points per game. They'll need all that depth: The Lakers began a stretch of 18 games in 30 days with only their third loss in nine games.
The Spurs blew an early 13-point lead, but took control in the third quarter while making 11 consecutive shots. San Antonio stretched its lead to 91-76 while scoring 39 points in the third quarter on 14-for-19 shooting, but the Lakers chipped it down to four points before succumbing.
''Last year, we would have been out of this game if we were down by that much,'' Clarkson said. ''We're out here to compete every night now. We're not OK with any loss.''
Russell has a sore left knee, and the Lakers elected to rest their point guard out of caution. He won't practice Saturday, either. Walton doesn't expect the injury to be a long-term problem, although the Lakers' brutal schedule over the next month won't help. The second-year pro leads the Lakers' balanced lineup with 16.8 points and 4.7 assists per game.
Jose Calderon started in Russell's place, scoring five points while playing only 14 minutes.
Spurs: Gasol got another warm ovation in Los Angeles, where he won two NBA championships as Kobe Bryant's right-hand man in 2009 and 2010. The 7-foot Spaniard was booed late in his Lakers career, but has been welcomed back enthusiastically since his departure as a free agent to Chicago. … Former USC big man Dewayne Dedmon has a sprained left knee and didn't make the trip with San Antonio.
Lakers: Los Angeles recalled center Ivica Zubac from its D-League affiliate, but the rookie didn't dress for this game. … Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram had a rough night. The No. 2 pick missed his first seven shots before finishing with four points on 1-of-9 shooting.
Spurs: A weekend off and a visit from rival Dallas on Monday.
Lakers: The homestand continues with a visit from Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.