The San Antonio Spurs, still on a seemingly endless “win-one, lose-one” seesaw, faced the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night trying to get back on the winning track after a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Of course, the main story coming out of San Antonio was the team announcing their decision to rest Kawhi Leonard indefinitely due to his re-occurring quadriceps injury.
But the Silver and Black were able to navigate past this unfortunate news, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge’s 34-point effort and Patty Mills’ 7-8 on threes.
Here are some takeaways from the game:
- Just like it’s been all season with Leonard out, the Spurs gave the Nets a heavy dose of Aldridge. It seemed like every possession, Aldridge’s teammates were looking for him in the post. He seemed more aggressive, as if he knows this is his team now until Leonard eventually returns. In addition to racking up 34 points (finishing an impressive 13-24 from the field), he also recorded 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. You can expect the Spurs to keep riding the Aldridge train for as long as Leonard is unable to play.
- Patty Mills is still an incredibly valuable member of this team. After news broke that his trade restriction was lifted, which created some confusion, Mills stepped up, showing once again why the Spurs have such a comfort level with him. His seven three-pointers were a career-high, and he finished with 25 points on the night. And in the game’s final moments as things got tight, he provided a dagger of a pass into the lap of Aldridge who neatly finished it off while getting fouled. He played very well next to Dejounte Murray, too. After all, Mills is essentially a two-guard trapped in a point guard’s body, which is why he’s able to co-exist with other point guards on the floor. He’s a streaky shooter off the bench - sure. But when he has games like Brooklyn, it makes things so much easier for everyone else on his team.
- Even when Murray is struggling to get his shot to fall (only going 1-5, finishing with two points), he still finds other ways to make his mark. He recorded nine rebounds (four of them on the offensive end), three assists, and two steals. As previously discussed, Murray is proving at a young age to be an amazing rebounder at the point guard position. He still needs a lot more consistency in terms of making shots, as well as just developing his offensive game in general. But there was a reason Pop had him out there during the final moments. Murray is an active player who uses his athleticism to help his team in a variety of ways. His activity and initiative are what will keep getting him minutes in Pop’s rotation.
- Pau Gasol really is the ideal post partner for LMA, because Gasol is fantastic at finding different ways to involve Aldridge through his passing. Big men who distribute the ball well often don’t get nearly the amount of credit they deserve - and Pau is no exception. The Spaniard added an impressive seven assists to his points-rebounds double double. While many have been quick to dog Gasol about his defense and his lack of quickness, you can’t hate on how incredible a passer he is for a guy his size. His unselfishness and awareness are crucial staples to the Spurs’ offense, and nights like tonight demonstrate why he is a terrific fit.
- Stating the obvious - but we are really going to miss Kawhi while he’s gone. LMA has been outstanding this year and is doing more than his fair share, but games like tonight demonstrate just how much the Spurs feel Leonard’s absence. Instead of a probable comfortable blowout with Leonard in the lineup tonight, this game got super close at the end. Aldridge did a great job at helping close this one out, but the Spurs likely wouldn’t have needed any closing at all if Leonard had been out there.
- Overall, this was an adequate win. The Nets showed some heart working their way back into this one, but the Spurs should’ve done a much better job executing and finishing (especially in the second half). The bench, outside of Mills, didn’t really provide much, and the offense was pretty much solely centered on LMA and his ability to make things happen. Moving forward, the Spurs will need more contributions from everyone (starters too), as they head to Toronto to take on the Raptors Friday night.