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Spurs put Lakers in crosshairs after defensive breakdown

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs will look to make amends for a rare poor defensive game and are expected to be back at full strength when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Alamo City on Thursday.

The Spurs are coming off a 109-007 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday that snapped a nine-game home winning streak. The defeat was uncharacteristic in that San Antonio did not make the defensive stops in the endgame that it is noted for.

Despite the subpar work on the defensive end, San Antonio (30-8) had a final shot to win. Reserve guard Maun Ginobili's 3-pointer from the corner with one second to play caromed off the side of the backboard and out of bounds as the horn sounded.

"Our problem on (Tuesday) started with our individual defense," Spurs center Pau Gasol said. "(The Bucks) ran the same two plays about 80 percent of the time, and they scored effectively.

"We're supposed to be a pretty good defensive team, and that doesn't come from just one player, and not two players, but the entire team working together and being in sync on the floor. A guy can score one time, maybe twice, on a certain play, but that's it. We just let it keep rolling and paid the price."

The Spurs placed six players in double-figure scoring, led by the 30-point performance by forward Kawhi Leonard. It was Leonard's ninth game of 30 or more points this season. San Antonio played against Milwaukee without star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was out due to a stomach illness.

"We have to play better leading up to the end of the game so it doesn't come down to if you make or miss a final shot," Spurs reserve forward David Lee said. "At the end of the game, they hit a couple of tough shots that were contested, and we missed a few that were wide open. We had a couple of stretches when we didn't play our best defense."

The Lakers (15-27) head to San Antonio off a disheartening 108-87 home loss Tuesday to the Portland Trail Blazers in which Los Angeles scored just 30 points in the second half. The defeat snapped a modest two-game winning streak for the Lakers, who have won four times in their past 10 games.

Portland outscored the Lakers 23-12 in the third quarter while outshooting them 43.5 percent to 21.7 percent in the period. No Los Angeles player scored more than four points in the quarter as the starters combined for only six points.

"We just went flat," Los Angles guard Nick Young said. "The energy wasn't there in the second half. It got tough for us. It wasn't anything they were doing. We just didn't have the energy."

Lakers coach Luke Walton was displeased with how his players focused on the offensive end.

Only three Los Angeles players scored in double figures against Portland. Luol Deng finished with a team-high 14 points, 13 of which came in the first half, when the Lakers forged a 57-55 lead.

"We aren't winning games when one guy scores 40," Walton said. "We had nights like that, too, and we lose. I thought we played a good first half, so what happened after that was very unexpected. We've made some great progress the past few weeks, so we can't let the way we played (Tuesday) affect us. We just have to move on."

The teams are meeting for the second time this season. San Antonio beat the Lakers 116-107 at Staples Center on Nov. 18 in the first matchup. Los Angeles has lost eight straight games to San Antonio and hasn't won the season series against the Spurs since 2008-09.
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