Sacre’s Defensive Impact

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles LakersTrailing 22-13 at the 5:18 mark of the first quarter, coach Mike D’Antoni inserted Robert Sacre, Xavier Henry and Kent Bazemore into the game.

That trio single-handedly sparked a Lakers rally and cut what was once an 11-point deficit to just a single point by halftime. In 11 first-half minutes, the Sacre-Henry-Bazemore group finished as a plus-11 and combined for 29 points (19 from Henry), 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals.

“Sacre is a big energy guy, always someone you can rely on to give you confidence to help you out and just being a good teammate,” Nick Young said. “To see him out there and all the hard work he put in – getting shots (up) and film after practice – you love to see a guy like that blossom.”

Come the fourth quarter, D’Antoni played Henry and Bazemore the entire 12 minutes, while Sacre was paired with Pau Gasol down the stretch. In 26 minutes off the bench, the big man from Gonzaga grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, while anchoring the Lakers defense down low.

“He definitely came in and changed the complexion right off the bat,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what we kind of look at, not individual stats. On a bad team, somebody has to score 20 points, so who cares? But he came in, changed the complexion, picked up our defense, energy and talking and did a lot of good things.”

In the second quarter, the Spurs were limited to 35.7 percent field goals and 23 points, after 35 points and a 58.3 percent mark in the opening frame. Much of that was attributed to Sacre’s presence defensively. Even alongside Gasol, D’Antoni liked that pairing up front enough to where the coaching staff will look to use that combo more down the stretch of the season.

“We saw it in practice the other day,” D’Antoni said. “Robert has improved enough to where we can still score with those two bigs on the floor and our defense does pick up. It’s something we’ll try going forward with.”