By all accounts, LaMarcus Aldridge needed a break.
His shot was off-kilter, evidenced by his 34.1 field goal percentage in the first five games of the Rodeo Road Trip.
San Antonio was outscored by eight points with Aldridge on the floor in this five-game stretch. While he sat, the Spurs were beating its opponents by 12 points.
Without Aldridge operating at his normal efficiency, Kawhi needed to ascend to the basketball heavens and essentially be Superman in order for the Spurs to compete in games.
The All-Star break couldn’t come soon enough for Aldridge.
But, first, he was the beneficiary of an early All-Star gift. Orlando traded Serge Ibaka to Toronto Tuesday afternoon, meaning he had one less frontcourt player to spar with.
Vogel inserted Jeff Green in the starting lineup to replace Ibaka, creating a tasty matchup for the struggling Aldridge.
He started the game by going to work over the smaller Green, tossing mid-range jumpers that were more reminiscent of the old Aldridge. Orlando switched Nikola Vucevic on to Aldridge, but he wasn’t quick enough to keep up with the rangy 7-footer.
Here, Ibaka was missed because of his long arms and athleticism.
Now this was the break — facing Orlando’s 22nd-ranked defense, without its best interior defender — Aldridge needed to escape from his mini-shooting slump.
It didn’t even matter that Kawhi was scoreless for the first six minutes of the game. Aldridge was locked in, finishing with 23 points in 28 minutes. He only needed 13 field goal attempts, too.
Once the lead was in good hands, Aldridge lobbed the baton to Dewayne Dedmon, playing his former team that had sent him into free agency for Bismack Biyombo (four points and three rebounds last night).
Dedmon added 10 points and 11 rebounds, marking his fifth double-double of the season.
With about eight minutes left in the game, Dedmon twisted the knife a bit deeper. Tony Parker probed the defense with his dribble for a few seconds, before calling for a screen. Dedmon obliged, sticking his large frame into D.J. Augustin’s hip.
Dedmon’s screen created enough space for Parker to duck into the paint, as Augustin worked to recover. Vucevic, defending Dedmon on the play, was out of position too and Mario Hezonja lingered in the weak-side corner for a beat too long. Parker lofted a high-arcing pass to Dedmon, now in a dead sprint to the rim, that he caught almost directly over the basket, and slapped it home for his 27th alley-oop dunk of the season.
Dedmon’s dunk was a crushing reminder for what could have been if Orlando re-signed him and spent its money elsewhere in free agency.
No matter. San Antonio left Orlando, Florida — home of Disney World, known colloquially as the happiest place on Earth — with a win before a much-needed reprieve from basketball.
It’s no Disney World, but the Amway Center proved to be at least the second happiest place on Earth for the Spurs’ frontcourt duo.
LaMarcus Aldridge: 23 points on 10-13 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block.
Relevant stat: San Antonio is 43-9 over the last two seasons when Aldridge scores at least 20 points in a game.
Quote of the night
“He has been stupendous. He runs the floor, he guards, he rebounds, he gives us a lot of energy. He has been absolutely super.”
— Gregg Popovich on Dedmon (via Jeff McDonald)
By the numbers
- 1: ridiculous Manu pass. Just nasty.
HOW MANU?! pic.twitter.com/IYYIxaWd5k— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 16, 2017
- 4-2: record during the first leg of the Rodeo Road Trip (Grizzlies, 76ers, Pistons, Knicks, Pacers, Magic). Spurs outscored its opposition by 5.3 points per game in this span.
- 26-5: record against teams that are below .500 this season.
- $2.9: million salary for Dedmon.
- $17.0: million salary for Biyombo. He finished with four points and three rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. (Related: Orlando didn’t re-sign Dedmon, so they could sign Biyombo for six times the money.)
- Adam Joseph from 16WinsARing posed an interesting question on Twitter during last night’s game: What player doesn't get credit in basic numbers but is incredibly important to his team? He called it the lunch pail All-Stars. Which got me thinking. Dedmon comes to mind. So does David Lee. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili, too. Frankly, San Antonio has several “lunch pail All-Stars” on the roster. Because Spurs.
Now Aldridge is hitting one-dribble pull-ups in dude's eyes.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) February 16, 2017
Manu could thread a haystack through a needle. That doesn't make any sense, but neither does Manu.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 16, 2017
The Magic trick we're seeing now is the Spurs sawing them in half.— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) February 16, 2017
Confirmed: Manu Ginobili has eyes in the back of his head pic.twitter.com/rTqyybe8uL— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 16, 2017
Petition for Dejounte to play more minutes:— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 16, 2017
Sign here: ___________________
Taco Bell menu item of the game
*Disclaimer: This section is not sponsored by Taco Bell. I'm just a huge fan. It's in my Twitter bio (@quixem), after all. Direct any negativity towards Taco Bell in the comments below. It's cool. I don't mind.
Let’s go with the double stacked tacos — an unimaginative alteration to an old classic. Wednesday’s win was typical Spurs (blowout), but it wasn’t much fun.
And that’s a wrap. Until next time ...