Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton smiles during a time out. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo
SAN ANTONIO -- All of a sudden, playing basketball is fun for Los Angeles Lakers, but winning -- and beating the San Antonio Spurs -- likely has a lot to do with that.
Tyler Ennis scored a career-high 19 points to lead five Lakers in double-figure scoring as Los Angeles, playing for nothing but pride in the final week of the NBA regular season, held on late to defeat San Antonio 102-95 on Wednesday at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio (60-18) will be the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference when the playoffs begin next week. The Golden State Warriors (65-14) earned a win at Phoenix on Wednesday night, wrapping up the top seed.
Los Angeles never trailed and led by as many as 26 in the second quarter. But it took a 10-0 run midway through the fourth period and two late misses by the Spurs after they had cut the Lakers' lead to just 100-95 in the final minute to secure the victory.
"They're having fun," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about his players. "We're trying to build momentum into this offseason and hopefully we can stay healthy and keep playing a certain way. Our defense was awesome. The guys went out there tonight and really did a heck of a job of being the aggressor and talking and switching."
Jordan Clarkson added 16 and Larry Nance Jr. hit for 15 for the Lakers, who won for the second straight game against a team that's clinched a playoff berth. Julius Randle scored 11 points and David Nwaba hit for 10 for Los Angeles.
"We were just very unselfish," Randle said. "The ball was moving. Tyler (Ennis) did a great job today. He was amazing and hit some big shots when we needed them down the stretch. Everybody was aggressive when they had the ball, not just looking for themselves but looking to make the right play."
Tony Parker and Davis Bertans led the Spurs with 14 points each, while Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol added 11 apiece for San Antonio, which was outshot 48.8-43.8 percent and outrebounded 47-37.
The Spurs also had 16 turnovers that led to 25 points for Los Angeles. San Antonio took just six free throws in the game, making four of them.
"We started getting really sloppy," Gasol said. "They were a lot more aggressive than we were. They took the initiative from the beginning and we were on our heels for most of the game. In the second quarter we started meeting that aggressiveness, competing a little more, but we couldn't quite get there."
With the win, the Lakers (23-55) moved a full game ahead of Phoenix for the worst record in the Western Conference. Both teams could still catch Brooklyn, the bottom dweller in the East with a 19-59 mark, for the league's worst record.
For the second game in a row, the Spurs had a sluggish offensive start, hitting just 6 of their 22 shots in the first quarter, scoring 14 points and trailing Los Angeles 31-14. The Lakers, conversely, hit 58.3 percent of their shots as Brandon Ingram and Clarkson had eight points each in the period.
The Los Angeles advantage grew to 40-14 on a Thomas Robinson layup at the 10:34 mark of the second quarter before the Spurs finally woke up, scoring the next seven points to close the gap to 19 points. That Lakers lead was down to 53-41 at halftime despite 11 points from Ennis and 10 from Clarkson.
San Antonio was led in the half by Leonard's 11 points but the Spurs shot just 3 of 13 on 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes.
Neither Leonard nor LaMarcus Aldridge played in the second half, but Gasol played the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third quarter and guided the Spurs back to within 65-62 at the 5:36 mark. Los Angeles had four players in double-figure scoring by the end of the period and held on tenuously to a 76-70 lead with a quarter to play.
"I didn't want to overplay anybody just to win a basketball game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That doesn't make much sense in the long run. We started out pretty poorly and got better as we went. Being down like that and then sitting some guys showed me something -- that the reserves could stick in there and do what they did. So that was nice."
NOTES: The Lakers played without G D'Angelo Russell (left knee soreness) while San Antonio Gs Manu Ginobili (right quad contusion), Danny Green (left quad contusion) and Dejounte Murray (left groin) did not suit up. ... It was the 13th game in a row Murray missed. ... The Spurs and Lakers have the two best overall winning percentages in NBA history. ... Lakers G Jordan Clarkson was born in San Antonio and graduated from high school in the Alamo City. ... Los Angeles has lost the last six season series to the Spurs and has a 4-7 record in San Antonio in its past 11 games. ... The Lakers have their next three games at home, beginning with Friday's contest versus Sacramento. ... Next up for San Antonio is Friday's road game in Dallas.