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The Spurs don't need Aldridge to be a basketball savior

In a dominating performance against New Orleans, LaMarcus had his best game since coming to San Antonio, but the Spurs don't require regular otherworldly performances from Aldridge. They just need him to be himself.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Some people expected LaMarcus Aldridge to be something resembling a basketball savior when the San Antonio Spurs signed him in free agency. Some expected him to be what he was in Portland -- a ball-dominating, go-to scorer that was lethal from mid-range. For the most part, Aldridge hasn't been any of those things through the first half of this season.

His scoring average has dipped this year, although his points per-36 minutes is in line with his career average. He hasn't saved anyone from anything, but he was never intended to. Within the context of the Spurs system, Aldridge only needs to be what he has been so far -- an All-Star caliber big man that can protect the glass and defend. He hasn't gotten enough credit for adjusting to a new role after eight years in Portland. This hasn't been a natural transition for Aldridge.

But because his face value numbers haven't been fantastic -- just solid -- Aldridge has often been on the wrong side of Twitter backlash.

He isn't scoring enough. He isn't shooting enough. Why does he shy away from the ball? Is he nervous? He's letting Kawhi take over too often. He needs to be more assertive. He's not worth $80 million.

For Aldridge, a guy averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds on a 41-8 Spurs team, it's never been enough. He's been scrutinized to an unreasonable degree.

The low point was his five-point outing against the Warriors. Without Tim Duncan, and facing the noise at Oracle Arena, Aldridge attempted just nine shots. He appeared lost on the defensive end, unable to keep up with the frenetic Warriors. Aldridge figures to be an important cog in a potential Spurs-Warriors series, making the disappearance especially damning.

His face might as well have been plastered on a milk carton afterwards. On Twitter, I saw several people clamoring for a trade.

But that's just a blip in the context of a 82-game season. Even the best players have off nights. Case in point: Since the turn of the new year, Aldridge is averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds in just under 30 minutes a night, with a career-best shooting percentage.

In Monday's game against the Magic, Aldridge set a season-high in points, only to break that mark with 36 points in 34 minutes Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. This was just a week removed from his stinker against Golden State.

Even with Anthony Davis guarding him, Aldridge attempted 20 shots and generated 12 free throw attempts. He was aggressive, assertive and efficient -- everything Spurs fans envisioned when he dotted the ink on a contract last July.

A savior, he may not be. But that doesn't devalue everything he is for the San Antonio.

Game ball

LaMarcus Aldridge: 36 points on 12-20 shooting, 12-12 from the foul line, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal.

Easily his best performance as a Spur to-date. He even got the Gregg Popovich seal of approval to boot.

Pop quote of the night

"I thought he was magnificent on both ends."

- Gregg Popovich on LaMarcus Aldridge

By the numbers

  • 27-0: Spurs became the first Western Conference team in NBA history to start a season 27-0 at home. So that's something.
  • 36: Which makes 36 straight home victories for the Spurs, dating back to last season. The average margin of victory in these games has been an astounding 17.5 points per game.
  • 36: Aldridge's point total, the highest mark from a Spur since Tony Parker scored 37 in January 2014.
  • 761: wins as a Spur for Tony Parker, putting him ahead of Kevin Willis for 22nd all-time.
  • 41-8: the record through 49 games, tying the 2010-11 Spurs for the best start in franchise history.
  • 30: assists on 42 field goals last night. Spurs are 9-0 when they exceed the 30 assist threshold this season.
  • 85.5: percent of the Spurs' points were from the starters (94 points, to be exact). The bench accounted for just 16 points, with Patty Mills (8 points), Manu Ginobili (6 points) and Rasual Butler (2 points) filling in the gaps.
  • 0: Boban dunks.

Twitter highlights

Taco Bell menu item of the game

Cheesy Gordita Crunch: Solid, not spectacular, not terrible.

The Spurs last night: Solid, not spectacular, not terrible. (It feels like a minor miracle that they finished with a 13-point victory.)

And that's a wrap folks. Until next time ...