LOS ANGELES -- The San Antonio Spurs will seek to continue their dominance of the Los Angeles Lakers when the teams meet Sunday at Staples Center.
The Spurs (44-13), who own the NBA's second-best record behind the Golden State Warriors, have beaten the Lakers seven consecutive times and won their last six games at Staples.
In their last meeting on Jan. 12 at San Antonio, the Spurs pounded the Lakers 134-94 behind 31 points by Kawhi Leonard on 10-of-13 shooting from the field. Former Laker Pau Gasol scored 22 points, hitting all nine of his shots, collected nine rebounds and had six assists.
Despite missing the past 15 games with a broken left hand, Gasol played well in his return to the lineup Friday night in a 105-97 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples. Gasol scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in almost 27 minutes off the bench. He made 5 of 7 shots from the floor, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
"It's one of those things. You stretch the floor, the first (shot) goes down and then you have a better chance at making the second one," said Gasol, who is averaging 11.9 points and eight rebounds per game in his first season with the Spurs. "The second one goes down and you have a better chance to make the third one because you're in a good rhythm and you have confidence. It's kind of surprising that it happened that way in our first game back after I hadn't played for five weeks."
The Lakers (19-40) hadn't played in nine days since the All-Star break before being defeated 110-93 by the Oklahoma City Thunder as Russell Westbrook notched his 28th triple-double with 17 points, 17 assists and 18 rebounds. It was the third straight loss for the Lakers, who are 2-6 this month.
In addition to their struggles, the Lakers have endured shake-ups in the front office and trades during the past week. Lakers president Jeanie Buss fired her brother Jim, who was the team's vice president of basketball operations, and longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. Magic Johnson replaced Buss and former agent Rob Pelinka stepped in for Kupchak.
Johnson's addition has provided additional motivation for the players.
"It's like you're starting over and trying to impress," said point guard D'Angelo Russell, according to the Los Angeles Times. Russell had 29 points and six assists against the Thunder.
"Everybody has to look over their shoulders once again. It's like coming to a new team. Trying to impress the GM and the guys in the front office with your play and off the court the way you handle yourselves. So it's all different."
Johnson quickly made a couple of deals in his new role, giving the Lakers a different look. Johnson dealt former Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer and a first-round draft pick on Thursday. Johnson followed by sending reserve guard and little-used Marcelo Huertas to Houston for Tyler Ennis and the draft rights to Brad Newley.
There also were reports Saturday that the Lakers were close to buying out the contract of guard Jose Calderon.