Aldridge leads short-handed Spurs over Suns

Agence France-Presse
Aldridge leads short-handed Spurs over Suns
The Spurs big man finishes with 27 points as his team wins without Kawhi Leonard

LOS ANGELES, US – With San Antonio’s leading scorer Kawhi Leonard sidelined by illness, LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up with 27 points on Wednesday, December 28 (Thursday morning, Manila time) to lead the Spurs to a 119-98 NBA victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Leonard missed his first game of the season with a stomach bug.

“He just couldn’t keep anything down today, so he stayed home,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

In his absence, Aldridge hit 10 of his 12 shots from the floor, following up a 33-point performance in a win over Chicago on Sunday with another outstanding effort.

“When LaMarcus plays aggressive like that we are a better team — he’s in attack mode, and he’s looking for his teammates and tonight Phoenix couldn’t guard him,” said veteran Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who matched his season high with 20 points.

Pau Gasol added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Manu Ginobili and David Lee came off the bench to score 12 points apiece for the Spurs, who beat the Suns by 15 points earlier this month but found themselves trailing 64-58 at halftime.

The Suns got off to an explosive start, connecting on 68.8 percent from the floor in the first quarter but they still trailed 30-27 after the period as 9 turnovers led to 13 points for San Antonio.

A 9-2 scoring run in the second quarter saw the Suns take the lead, but the Spurs got the young Phoenix squad’s measure in after the interval.

“We did a lot better in the second half,” Parker said. “Our energy was better and we tried to create turnovers and play more physical on the defensive end.”

The Suns, led by reserve guard TJ Warren’s 23 points, coughed up 22 turnovers — the most for a San Antonio opponent this year.

“We played a great first half — we played aggressive on the ball and got some deflections on defense,” Suns coach Earl Watson said. “Things reversed in the second half. We are a young group trying to establish a culture and that can’t be done overnight.

“We have to be a defensive team all 4 quarters and keep our focus. Turnovers hurt us, but with a young team, turnovers are going to happen.”

The Spurs out-scored Phoenix 61-34 in the second half, their focus sharpening as the Suns’ waned.

“The whole game for us was picking up the intensity in defensive pressure in the third and fourth quarters,” Popovich said. –

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