SAN ANTONIO – The Los Angeles Lakers know they are not always going to feel or play like the defending league champions.
Anthony Davis had 35 points and 11 rebounds and LeBron James added 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers rallied to beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-103 on Friday night.
The Lakers closed the game with a 9-0 run for their second win against the Spurs in three days.
“We persisted through our struggles,” Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s going to happen from time to time. In a 72-game season, you are going to have some wins that are uglier than others. We knew coming into this season, with the quick turnaround, there was going to be some ugly nights. The key is to find a way to win when you are not at your best.”
The Lakers found a way to win by attacking the paint late against the youthful core of the Spurs.
San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson blocked James’ layup attempt, but Kyle Kuzma tipped in the follow to give the Lakers a 105-103 lead with 53.9 seconds remaining. James followed with a layup and Davis closed the scoring with two free throws.
“Their game plan tweaked,” Kuzma said. “They added a little bit of a different element for us. We had to adjust down the stretch.”
Johnson had a career-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds for his fourth game of 20-plus points in two seasons. Only Hall of Famer Tim Duncan had more 20-point efforts through his first 25 career games with the Spurs, getting six during his rookie season.
“He’s a competitor,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said of Johnson. “He’s a fine young player and he’s going to have a great career. That’s about all I can say. He’s been wonderful.”
Johnson was 5 for 9 on 3-pointers, including a 26-footer with 6:30 remaining that put the Spurs up 95-94.
Unlike in Wednesday’s 121-107 loss, the Spurs were able to keep pace with the Lakers early.
“We played a heck of a basketball team, and we were a good basketball team tonight also,” Popovich said. “So, I was happy with their play.”
The Lakers picked up their pace to start the second half, resulting in a 10-2 advantage in fast-break points and a 64-57 lead a minute into the third quarter. Los Angeles closed the game with a 12-9 advantage on fast-break points.
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope exited in the second half after mildly spraining his left ankle when he stepped awkwardly driving for a layup. Caldwell-Pope remained down for about a minute before being assisted off the court. He had 11 points before exiting with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for San Antonio, which has lost three straight after opening the season with two victories.
Spurs guard Derrick White had nine points in 23 minutes in his season debut after undergoing toe surgery in the offseason.
Lakers: The Lakers entered the game shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers, which is second in the league. They were 14 for 33 on Friday. … Wesley Matthews was scoreless, going 0 for 2 on 3-pointers after going 6 for 6 on 3s and scoring 18 points in Wednesday’s victory over the Spurs. … James fell to the court after taking an elbow from Drew Eubanks early in the fourth. James continually grabbed his side for a few possessions after but appeared fine afterwards.
Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge missed his second straight game with an undisclosed illness as well as a sore left knee. ... White made his first attempt of the season, a 26-foot, 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
Lakers: Open a second straight two-game miniseries on the road Sunday against Memphis, where they play again Tuesday.
Spurs: Complete a three-game homestand against Utah on Sunday.