SPURS GAMEDAY: Aldridge has been a force in first 20 games

Memphis Grizzlies (7-12) vs. Spurs (13-7) 
When, where:
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, AT&T Center
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 95, Grizzlies 89, April 4, 2017, AT&T Center
Grizzlies’ last game: Lost to Nets 98-88, Sunday, Memphis
Spurs’ last game: Beat Mavericks 115-108, Monday, AT&T Center
Grizzlies’ last 10 games, streak: 1-9, lost eight
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 7-3, won two
Notable: LaMarcus Aldridge has finished with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in seven of the Spurs’ first 20 games this season, the most since Tim Duncan’s eight in 2009.

SAN ANTONIO – Playing with the consistency that landed him in the NBA All-Star Game for four consecutive years when he starred for Portland, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is putting up numbers at a Tim Duncan-like pace in his third season with the Spurs.

Aldridge scored a season-high 33 points on 13-of-19 shots and added 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks in a 115-108 victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday at the AT&T Center. The double-double was the eighth of the season for Aldridge, who has been the Silver and Black’s top scorer in 16 of their first 20 games.

Starting the season without injured starters Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, the Spurs have leaned on Aldridge to carry them on both ends of the court in the first quarter of the season.

Aldridge, who turned 32 in July and is in his 12th NBA season, keeps it simple whenever he’s asked about his resurgent game.

“I’m just playing basketball,” he has said repeatedly.

The Spurs (13-7) get back it Wednesday night, hosting struggling Memphis (7-12) in the first of back-to-back games against the Grizzlies. The teams meet again Friday night in Memphis.

Wednesday night’s game will be Memphis’ first since it fired David Fizdale on Monday, a day after the team lost its eighth in a row. The Grizzlies are 0-6 since point guard Mike Conley went down with an Achilles injury Nov. 17.

San Antonio backup forward Rudy Gay, who missed Monday’s game with a sore right heel, is probable for Wednesday night’s clash. But All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who has been out since the start of the preseason with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps, remains out.

Veteran point guard Tony Parker returned to action in the victory over the Mavs, finishing with six points and four assists in 14 minutes. Parker hadn’t played in a game since rupturing a tendon in his left quadriceps last May in the playoffs.

The Spurs punished Dallas with their inside tandem of Aldridge and center Pau Gasol, who scored a game-high 25 points. Their combined 58 points marked the first time since Dec. 5, 2003, that the Silver and Black’s power forward and center combined for at least 58 points. Duncan had 47 points and Rasho Nesterovic added 12 in a victory against Orlando.

Playing with more confidence and finally looking comfortable in the Spurs’ offense, Aldridge is averaging 22.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, both team highs, in 33.1 minutes. He is shooting 50.7 percent from the field, and averaging 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocks.

Aldridge was named an All-Star in his first year with San Antonio (2015-16), but his scoring (17.3) and rebounding (7-3) averages last season were the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign.

It appeared that Aldridge’s days in San Antonio were numbered last summer when reports surfaced that the Spurs were seeking a trade for him. But when no deal came together, Aldridge met with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to clear the air.

Popovich said later that he took Aldridge’s concerns to heart and blamed himself for not doing a better job of putting Aldridge in a better position to thrive in the team’s offense.

Playing with a little more bounce in his step and looking more comfortable on offense, Aldridge quieted the naysayers with his steady play in the preseason.

After months of doubt about his future in San Antonio, Aldridge signed a three-year, $72.3 million contract extension with the Spurs in mid-October. The extension will keep Aldridge under contract with the Spurs through the 2020-21 season. He left Portland after nine seasons to sign a four-year deal with San Antonio in 2015. He had an option on his last season.

Before Monday night’s game, Popovich cited Aldridge and forward Kyle Anderson for their strong play this season. Anderson has started in Leonard's spot since the start of the season. 

"LA and Kyle Anderson have been real stalwarts," Popovich said. "Those two guys have been steady, steady throughout this. LA's combination of scoring and playing D, running the floor, has been just outstanding. He's really been the key and guys like Kyle have been special on top of it.”

Popovich was ejected with 7:25 left in the second quarter of Monday’s game and was not available for comment.

The Grizzlies fired Fizdale after he benched All-Star center Marc Gasol, the younger brother of Pau Gasol, after the third quarter. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff was named the team’s interim coach.

Fizdale became Memphis’ head coach in May 2016 and went 50-51. The Grizzlies took the Spurs to six games before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.

San Antonio guard Danny Green said the team should be cautious of Memphis.

“We always know every time a team comes with a new coach (after a) firing, they always start to go on a winning streak, so we’re going to prevent that as much as we can,” Green said. “He (Fizdale) did a great job over there. He fought for those guys. He developed them, especially in the playoffs. We had a tough time with them.”

Up next after Wednesday night’s game: at Memphis, Friday, 7 p.m. 

© 2017 KENS-TV


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