With Duncan expected to be sidelined again, the Spurs look to avoid losing two straight for the first time this season when they visit the Lakers on Thursday night.
Duncan has missed three straight games with a sprained right ankle sustained in a win over Portland on Dec. 2, and is expected to miss at least one more contest. Duncan—averaging 17.6 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game— was in uniform against Golden State on Tuesday night, but Matt Bonner again took his place in the starting lineup and San Antonio’s five-game winning streak came to end with a 96-84 loss.
The defending NBA champion Spurs (17-4) haven’t lost consecutive games all season. They won their first matchup with Los Angeles (12-8) this season 107-92 on Nov. 13, although Duncan shot 2-for-13 and finished with five points.
San Antonio won that game partly due to an outstanding effort on offense and defense from Bruce Bowen. The team’s defensive star isn’t known for his work on the other end of the court, but he had a season-high 23 points and helped hold Kobe Bryant to 18 points—well below the 27.2 points he’s averaging on the season.
Bonner had a strong performance off the bench against the Lakers, finishing with 15 points, and he led the Spurs with career highs of 25 points and 17 rebounds Tuesday. Bonner shouldered the load on offense with Duncan out and leading scorer Manu Ginobili struggling.
Ginobili, averaging 20.8 points per game, was held to 13 on 4-for-14 shooting after recording consecutive 37-point performances.
“Manu had a difficult night—82 games, people are people,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They are not machines.”
Bryant, meanwhile, is coming off a 28-point effort to lead Los Angeles to a 123-113 win over Golden State on Sunday night.
It was the Lakers’ third straight win, but Bryant believes the they are “playing well enough to keep our heads above water.”
“I think the key for us is to keep getting better, believe we can get better,” he said.
The 20-year-old center matched a career high with 20 points and also had 11 rebounds and five blocked shots versus the Warriors. Bynum is averaging 12.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in nine games as a starter.
Luke Walton, meanwhile, didn’t play Sunday because of the sprained right ankle he suffered during practice Friday. His status for Thursday’s game is uncertain.
The Lakers’ bench, though, got healthier with the return of Ronny Turiaf, who missed two straight games with a concussion. The third-year forward had 10 points in 10 minutes against Golden State.
The game will be the first for Phil Jackson since signing his previously announced extension on Wednesday. It’s believed to be a two-year deal worth about $24 million.
This will be the last of consecutive home games for Los Angeles, which will play five of its next six on the road. San Antonio has won eight of its last 10 road games against the Lakers.