Expect fireworks -- just not as bright and gaudy as those from six nights before -- when the new-look San Antonio Spurs host the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The two teams played in Los Angeles on Sunday and were dance partners in a 143-142, double-overtime win for the Spurs in what is being touted as one of the top games in the early NBA campaign.
Since that game, the Lakers (2-3) have won their first two contests of the year and looked explosive in doing so. Los Angeles rolled to a 128-111 win over Denver on Thursday behind James' first triple double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) as a member of the Lakers. It was the 74th triple-double of James' career.
The Lakers used a 15-2 fourth-quarter rally to net the win.
"The first couple of games, when we fell behind, we stayed behind," James said after the win against Denver. "Tonight when we fell behind, we learned from our mistakes, and that's one of the most important things in life."
After starting the season with down-to-the-wire defeats to three playoff contenders (including the Spurs), the Lakers got their first win of the year against an overmatched and shorthanded Phoenix team on Wednesday. On Thursday, with little rest, they found a way to continue that momentum and hand the Nuggets their first loss of the season.
"I thought if we didn't get this win tonight, they'd take us off nationally televised games," James quipped.
Meanwhile, things are not as rosy in the Alamo City. The Spurs showed they have a lot of work to do in getting used to each other after producing a real stinker in a 116-96 loss at home to Indiana on Wednesday that dropped San Antonio to 2-2 on the season.
DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 18 points in the loss while LaMarcus Aldridge (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Rudy Gay (11 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles for San Antonio. Marco Belinelli added 16 and Bryn Forbes hit for 15 points for the Spurs.
Indiana outshot the Spurs 52.9 percent to 40.2 percent in the win, and the Pacers canned 17 of their 32 shots from beyond the arc.
It's rare that San Antonio struggles on defense as much as it has in the early going -- to wit the 142 points surrendered at Los Angeles last Sunday and the Pacers' success from the floor on Wednesday. But that challenge could have been expected from a team that has eight new players in the roster this year.
"It's a new group, so it will take time to build chemistry and to instill the new principles that we have here defensively," Aldridge told the San Antonio Express-News after practice on Thursday. "It's going to be a process and we all have to lock in on it and focus on it to get better.
"There are no excuses -- we have to be better. But it's teaching guys the new ways, and guys who have been here have to take ownership in trying to make sure guys are in the right spots."
Sunday's win allowed the Spurs to break a four-game losing streak to Los Angeles that included a sweep by the Lakers last season.
The Spurs and Lakers have the two best overall winning percentages in NBA history, and San Antonio owns an 87-81 overall edge on the Lakers, including a 51-33 advantage in games played in the Alamo City.