Aldridge leads Spurs' resurgence as Nuggets visit the Alamo City
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to show why he's San Antonio's best player, even when Spurs have been off the track this season. His play will be one of the keys for the Spurs on Monday when they host the Denver Nuggets at the AT&T Center.
Aldridge poured in 27 points -- 17 of them in the first quarter -- and took 10 rebounds as San Antonio thumped Oklahoma City 116-102 on Saturday in the Alamo City, carrying the Spurs to their second straight home win after the team had lost seven of eight games on its Rodeo Road Trip. San Antonio has now won six straight games at home.
His game against the Thunder was a near-mirror performance of his 25-point production two days earlier in a win against Detroit that helped get the Spurs back on the rails.
"Just had a good game," Aldridge said about the Spurs' win Saturday. "We played defense -- trying to follow the game plan, make looks tough for them, get back in transition -- and we did it tonight. I felt like I had a good rhythm. I was just taking my shots."
Rudy Gay added 22 points for San Antonio, with DeMar DeRozan hitting for 18, Bryn Forbes scoring 16 and Derrick White tallying 14 for the Spurs.
Despite a balanced showing on offense, it was San Antonio's defense that made the difference again on Saturday, holding Oklahoma City to 45.5 percent shooting and just 24.1 percent (7-29) from behind the 3-point line. The Thunder finished with 13 turnovers that the Spurs converted into 20 points.
"We're hoping that we're going to get consistent with it down the stretch here because when we do play defense, we're a pretty good team," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We can score the basketball, but we have to make stops, and tonight we were able to do that."
The Nuggets head into San Antonio on the heels of a 120-112 loss at home to New Orleans on Saturday. Denver had its original starting five in the lineup for just the third time this season but fell to a Pelicans team that played without all-star forward Anthony Davis.
It was Denver's second straight home setback, just the second time this year it's lost back-to-back games in the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets fell in three consecutive home contests in mid-November.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray scored with 20 points each for the Nuggets, but Jokic played just six and a half minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, with two of the whistles coming in the game's opening minutes. Paul Millsap added 16 points for Denver, and Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Thomas scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench in the loss.
Saturday marked the first time since Oct. 20 that the Nuggets' intended starting five -- Jokic, Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Millsap -- all started a game together.
Denver did the majority of its damage with Jokic on the bench, building a 19-point lead before giving all that back, and more.
"We had the lead and were playing good defense," Jokic said. "Then, we kind of relaxed and they used that against us. We let them take control of the game. "We need to stay together, stay focused. We need to kind of think about where we want to go, and that's it."
It was the biggest blown lead of the season for the Nuggets, and Denver coach Mike Malone was none too pleased about his team's play.
"They kicked our ass," Malone said about the Pelicans. "Turnovers, threw the ball all over the gym, 27 points off turnovers, 62 in our paint, 19 on the glass, blah, blah, blah."
The Spurs and Denver have split their two games so far this season, with San Antonio winning at home 111-103 on Dec. 26 and the Nuggets countering with a 102-99 victory in Denver two nights later. The Spurs have a 117-68 all-time edge over Denver and have won 74 of the 93 games played in the Alamo City, including 12 in a row.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2019