Tim Duncan spent another game night on the Spurs bench at The AT&T Center in NBA-mandated business attire, this time with his teammates facing the most athletic young big man in the NBA, New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis, the league’s No. 10 scorer.
For Wednesday night, at least, the sight of the Spurs captain, one of the best defenders of big men in league history, wearing a sport coat did not induce panic for the team’s immediate future.
It turned out the Spurs’ best defense vs. Davis was Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge’s aggressive offense.
Calling for the ball early and often, Aldridge produced a season-high 36 points on 20 shots, leading the Spurs to their 27th straight home court win of the season, 110-97.
Aldridge is the first Spurs player since Tony Parker, in Feb. 2013, to score 60-plus point in a two-game span. It was his 15th game of the season leading the team in scoring, with the Spurs improving to a perfect 15-0 in those games.
The Spurs also got 26 points from Kawhi Leonard, who played power forward in a small ball lineup most of the fourth quarter, when the Spurs put away a Pelicans team that had beaten them in New Orleans in November.
Davis, who has been selected to make his third appearance on the Western Conference All-Star team in Toronto on Feb. 14, scored 28 points but needed 22 shots to get them. And by the time the fourth quarter arrived he appeared to be worn out from the energy he had expended guarding Aldridge all game long all by himself. He scored only three points in the final quarter when the Spurs put away the Pelicans by outscoring them 27-18.
“I thought (Aldridge) was magnificent at both ends,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Anthony got three points in the fourth quarter and LaMarcus did a great job on him. I thought he was special.”
Aldridge knew he had turned in his most effective and physical defensive performances of the season but chose to credit the weak-side help he got from his teammates at the defensive end.
“I tried to crowd him,” he said of Davis, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft. “He’s one of those guys who can score whenever. I just tried to be physical with him and I thought guys had my back out there. David (West) came over. Kawhi came over. So I thought guys were definitely locked in.”
Aldridge’s 36-point game, the highest of the season for any Spur, gave him back-to-back games with season-high point production, a clear sign he is getting more comfortable in the Spurs offense.
“Ball’s been going in,” Aldridge said. “Taking the shots and making them. Playing more confident, more like myself and I fed off that energy.”
That he produced his season-high game against Davis, one of the league’s best defenders of big men and the No. 2 shot blocker in the league (2.37 per game), was, to use Popovich’s descriptive, special.
“(Davis) is very athletic, very skilled at both ends of the floor,” Aldridge said. “I was just trying to make reads and trying to pick my spots to take my shots and find a rhythm and just rolling with it.”
Once Aldridge got rolling offense was easy for all of his teammates.
“He was very aggressive tonight,” said point guard Tony Parker, who took only two shots but had eight assists. “He wanted the ball so I just give him the ball. And got out of his way.”
It would have been good if Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili had gotten out of the way of Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson when Anderson drove to the basket with 2:26 remaining in the game. Instead, Ginobili took a charge from Anderson and appeared to take a knee to the groin. He crumpled to the court holding his crotch and had to be helped off the court and to the locker room.
His teammates didn’t know quite what to make of the injury after the game.
“I don’t want to joke with that,” said Parker. “It doesn’t look good.”
West, the team’s most physical player, sounded optimistic after speaking with Ginobili.
“Yeah, I think (he will be OK),” West said.
*Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.