Toronto Raptors (2-0) vs. Spurs (2-0)
When, where: 7:30 p.m., Monday, AT&T Center
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 108, Raptors 106, Jan. 24, 2017, Toronto
Spurs’ last game: Beat Bulls 87-77, Saturday, Chicago
Raptors’ last game: Beat 76ers, 128-94, Saturday, Toronto
Notable: The Spurs swept their two-game series with the Raptors last season.
SAN ANTONIO – Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge said he was ready to go to work before last week’s season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He wasn’t kidding.
With Kawhi Leonard still sidelined, Aldridge has picked up the slack on the offensive end of the court for the Silver and Black and continued to be a force on defense.
Aldridge has posted a double-double in back-to-back games, helping the Spurs jump out to a 2-0 start. He had 28 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s 87-77 road victory against Chicago, and finished with 25 points and 10 boards in a 107-99 season-opening win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
The Spurs return to the AT&T Center on Monday night to host the Toronto Raptors, who also improved to 2-0 Saturday night with a 128-94 rout of Philadelphia.
“I’ve been in a different mindset since the summer started, and that has carried over to training camp to preseason to now,” Aldridge said. “My mindset coming into the season was to try to be more dominant.”
Aldridge joined Tim Duncan as the only Spurs ever to have at least 25 points and at least 10 rebounds in the first two games of the season. Duncan had a double-double in his first two games in 2004-05.
Leonard will not play in Monday night’s game, the Spurs announced. He missed the entire preseason with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps. Coach Gregg Popovich has said there is no timetable for Leonard’s return.
Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season, helping lead the Silver and Black to the second-best record (61-21) in the league. Leonard, 26, finished third in the voting for the league’s MVP award.
The Spurs are also without veteran point guard Tony Parker, who isn’t expected back until December after having surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.
Meanwhile, Aldridge has demonstrated he’s ready to carry the bulk of the offensive load until Leonard returns.
Popovich cited Aldridge for his strong performance after the victory against the Bulls, who had won three in a row at home against the Spurs.
“Aldridge was just a difference maker for us with the way he scored,” Popovich said. “The defense in the second half and L.A.’s offense was what got us over (the hump). They moved the ball better than we did. I thought they actually executed better than we did.”
Aldridge, who turned 32 in July, put all the speculation about his future in San Antonio to rest last week when he signed a three-year, $72.3 million contract extension. The deal will keep Aldridge, a five-team All-Star, under contract with the Silver and Black through the 2020-21 season.
Frustrated with his offensive inconsistency in his first two seasons with the Spurs, Aldridge had a frank talk this summer with Popovich about his role on offense. Popovich listened and made a few tweaks to put Aldridge in a better position as a scorer.
Aldridge has looked more comfortable in the offense than he ever has since initially signing with San Antonio in the summer of 2015.
Popovich blamed himself for most of Aldridge’s problems on offense.
“He just didn't feel comfortable and it's 98.75 percent on me, and whatever is left because I can't subtract that well," Popovich said before the Spurs played Minnesota in their opener. "I tried to change him."
© 2018 KENS-TV