Spurs face Lakers with eyes still set on 3rd seed in the West
The door has closed on the remaining chances of another 50-win season for the San Antonio Spurs. Third place in the Western Conference seems out of reach as well.
The Spurs will try to regroup Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers back at Staples Center, the same arena where they watched their last chance at extending their two-decade old streak of 50-win seasons come to a halt the night before.
The Spurs (45-33) led by 19 points in the first half against the Clippers, a team fighting just to make the playoffs. San Antonio saw that lead disappear in the third quarter but rallied back to take an 11-point advantage into the fourth before giving up 41 points in the 113-110 loss.
“Our lack of discipline really hurt us,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after the game.
San Antonio also missed a chance to move within two games of the Portland Trail Blazers for third place in the West. The Trail Blazers had lost to the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the evening, and the Spurs host Portland on Saturday, with the winner holding the tiebreaker.
But now three games back of the Trail Blazers with four games left for each, the Spurs need to turn their attention to holding off the Utah Jazz, who are tied with the Spurs and own the tiebreaker for fourth place. The Oklahoma City Thunder are only a half-game back in sixth, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are a game back in seventh.
Just outside the playoff bubble are the ninth-place Denver Nuggets, and they’re only two games behind the Spurs.
Extending their string of 50 wins seasons to 19 didn’t seem a possibility three weeks ago. The Spurs went 3-11 from Feb. 1 to March 12 but bounced back to win eight of 10 before losing Tuesday night, their sixth consecutive road loss.
The Lakers (33-44) are already guaranteed to have their most wins since going 45-37 in the 2012-13 season, but they’ve lost the momentum built in January and February.
After two stretches in which they won eight of 10 games, injuries have mounted and Los Angeles is 2-8 since March 14.
They experienced their latest defeat Tuesday night at the Utah Jazz, giving up a combined 56 points to starting guards Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell.
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball will likely miss his fourth straight game with a left knee bruise. It would be the 26th game overall he’s missed in his rookie season due to injury. Ball is averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds.
Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters it’s possible Ball could be done for the season.
“With six games left, we’re not going to put him back out there when his knee’s hurting like that,” Walton said. “Wait until he’s all the way healthy — if that happens.”
Brandon Ingram did not accompany the Lakers to Utah for their game against the Jazz because he was still in the NBA concussion protocol. Ingram, second on the team in scoring at 16.1 points, sustained the injury Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was Ingram’s first game back after missing 12 games with a groin injury.
On the positive side, Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot 5 for 9 from 3-point range and scored 26 points against the Jazz after coming in 3 for 23 from long range in his previous four games.
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