Short-handed Spurs look to slow Lakers

The San Antonio Spurs will be without two key players and likely more when they face the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Thursday.

Kawhi Leonard will miss his third straight game with a partial tear in his left shoulder, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year was injured Friday during a victory against the Phoenix Suns.

Rudy Gay, the Spurs’ third-leading scorer at 11.5 points, will miss his seventh straight game with right heel bursitis.

San Antonio (28-14) might also be without its starting backcourt.

Tony Parker sprained his right ankle Monday at the Sacramento Kings and the six-time All Star is listed as doubtful against Los Angeles. Danny Green has missed the past four games with tightness in his left groin and is questionable.

“Just bad luck,” Parker told reporters after the 107-100 victory against the Kings. “We’ll see.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games this season while rehabilitating from quadriceps tendinopathy. He was playing his eighth game of the season against the Suns, and finished with 21 points, four steals and three blocks.

“It’s disappointing. We need him,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “He started to feel better, to feel good, and then we lose him for a few games and we don’t know how many.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it has been difficult finding the right combinations with so many key players out.

“You want to put somebody on the court, but you can’t because of minutes,” he said. “So you put somebody else on the court that shouldn’t be on the court based on matchups, or what you’re trying to do defensively or offensively, so it’s really a mish-mash.”

The Lakers (13-27) have dealt with their own injury woes this season, but they’re healthy now and will be trying to win three games in a row for the first time and close out a five-game homestand on a positive note.

Los Angeles beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday and the Kings on Tuesday. The Lakers, Hawks and Kings have three of the five worst records in the NBA. San Antonio has the fifth-best record.

The Lakers committed a season-high 25 turnovers against Sacramento, a number that would be highly difficult to get away with against the Spurs.

“We will take a win when we can get it, but it just doesn’t feel the same way as when you play the game the right way throughout,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters after the Sacramento game.

The winning streak began one game after rookie point guard Lonzo Ball returned after missing six games with a sprained left shoulder, all of them losses. He was limited to five points on 2-for-10 shooting against Sacramento, but contributed 11 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals and committed only one turnover.

“(Ball) creates our pace for us,” Walton said. “He makes winning plays for us. He gets other people easy shots. So, he impacted the game on both ends of the floor, and he’s a big part of why we won (Tuesday night).”

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