Spurs strive to be defensive against streaking Lakers

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The San Antonio Spurs head home after a grueling stretch of road games and after breaking an eight-game losing streak to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday in the Alamo City.

The hope is that San Antonio’s defense traveled back with it from the Big Apple. The Spurs will need it to keep pace with the surging Lakers.

The Spurs (6-11), who had played six of their past seven games away from home, finally broke the longest losing skid in the 23-year Gregg Popovich era with a 111-104 win over New York on Saturday.

For a while, it seemed like San Antonio was to return to victory in style in the Big Apple, leading by as many as 28 points in the first half despite the playing the second night of a road back-to-back. But New York cut the Spurs’ lead to seven points with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, before San Antonio tightened up on defense and hit some late free throws to salt away the game.

It’s the second time San Antonio has defeated the Knicks this season; the Spurs are 4-11 against the rest of the league over the first quarter of the campaign.

The Spurs allowed an average of 122.4 points per game in their eight-game swoon.

“We are defensively challenged,” Popovich said. “That’s a political sort of term for ‘we suck.'”

LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan led the way with 23 and 21 points, respectively, as the Spurs righted the ship, at least for one game. San Antonio ended its worst slide since the 1996-97 season and won for the first time since Nov. 7.

“Everyone was definitely unhappy and frustrated, but you’ve got to change your own fate,” Aldridge said. “You’ve got to find a way, and tonight we played better, played with more of a sense of urgency.”

Point guard Dejounte Murray sat out Saturday’s game to rest his surgically repaired right knee. He will be back in the lineup on Monday.

The Lakers head to South Texas on the heels of a 109-108 win in Memphis on Saturday in which LeBron James poured in 30 points, including a driving layup with 1:30 left that put Los Angeles on top to stay.

Los Angeles rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit for an 85-84 advantage heading into the fourth quarter

“We’re lucky to get out of here with a win,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re happy to get a W, but certainly we have to play to a higher standard than we played tonight.”

Anthony Davis added 22 points, and Rajon Rondo had 14 for Los Angeles, which captured its seventh straight victory. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 and Dwight Howard added 10 in the win for the Lakers, who were playing their second game in as many nights but had enough in the tank to outlast the Grizzlies.

“We just kept our composure,” James said. “That’s what we do. We are a very resilient team.”

Los Angeles is an NBA-leading 14-2, its best start since the 2008-09 season. That was a championship year for the Lakers.

San Antonio leads the all-time series with the Lakers 89-83, and owns a 53-34 advantage in games played in the Alamo City. Los Angeles defeated the Spurs 103-96 when the two teams squared off in San Antonio on Nov. 3.

Davis scored a game-high 25 points and James had a triple-double with 21 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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