SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Becky Hammon became the first woman to lead an NBA team, taking control of the San Antonio Spurs after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to LeBron James and the Lakers Los Angeles Wednesday night.
James celebrated his 36th birthday with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Lakers’ third double-digit victory. The teams will face each other in the two matches scheduled for Friday evening.
Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 left in the second quarter. Popovich yelled at Brown and entered the pitch following a non-appeal on DeMar DeRozan’s layup attempt and a subsequent rebound attempt by Drew Eubanks. Popovich was applauded as he left the pitch by several of the team’s family in attendance.
Hammon took over the team’s caucuses during the timeouts and stepped on the sidelines after Popovich was ejected. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.
Tim Duncan took over last season when Popovich was kicked out against Portland on November 16, 2019. The Hall of Fame has chosen not to return as an assistant this season.
A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as abroad before retiring to join Popovich’s team in 2014.
The Lakers contributed to Popovich’s frustration, and Spurs’ fortunes didn’t improve much after the veteran coach left.
Dennis Schroder had 21 points, Anthony Davis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers. Wesley Matthews was 6 for 6 on 3 points, scoring 18 points off the bench.
The Spurs opened the game with a 9-2 streak, including an undisputed drive down Keldon Johnson’s lane for a two-handed slam. The Lakers responded with an 11-0 run that fostered a Popovich time-out.
The Lakers took their first double-digit lead at 35-25 over 3-point Kyle Kuzma with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.
Dejounte Murray had 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and DeRozan added 23 for the Spurs, who lost their second in a row after opening the season with back-to-back wins.
Lakers: PG Alex Caruso missed the game for “health and safety protocols” as mandated by the league. Lakers coach Frank Vogel did not elaborate on Caruso’s status. … James has been listed as questionable after spraining his left ankle in the Lakers’ 115-107 loss to Portland on Monday. James played 35 minutes against the Spurs after scoring 29 points in 36 minutes against the Trail Blazers.
Spurs: Popovich has said Spurs will monitor Aldridge’s knee pain on a day-to-day basis.