SAN ANTONIO – The beat goes on for the Spurs, who looked in midseason form Saturday night in their home opener.
Led again by Kawhi Leonard and given a boost by Patty Mills, who subbed for Tony Parker at point guard, the Silver and Black made short work of the New Orleans Pelicans in a 98-79 win at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs improved to 3-0, while the Pelicans dropped to 0-3. San Antonio plays its first back-to-back of the season Sunday, facing the Heat in Miami. Tipoff is at 5 p.m. Coach Gregg Popovich rested Parker and Manu Ginobili Saturday night.
Leonard finished with "only" 20 points after scoring a career-high 35 in the Spurs' season-opening victory over Golden State on Tuesday and 30 in another win against Sacramento on Thursday. Mills had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nailed 4 of 7 shots from the 3-point line. He also dished out five assists.
"He was fantastic," Popovich said of Mills. "He showed great poise, found open spaces, and moved the ball around. He did a fine job."
Mills made the most of his opportunity to play with the first unit.
"Obviously, both groups play different syles, so it was good to get out with the first group today," he said. "I enjoyed playing with LaMarcus (Aldridge). And it is good to play with Pau (Gasol), his ability to read and understand the game and pass as well. It was good."
Leonard had just four points in the first half, but went off for 16 in the third quarter to help San Antonio take an 83-60 lead into the fourth period. He hit 5 of 7 shots, 2-3 from beyond the arc, and had four rebounds in the quarter. He had one more point in the third quarter than the Pelicans, who were outscored 28-15.
"I just tried to get involved very slowly, see where they were playing me," Leonard said. "I just got a feel for what they were doing in the third quarter, made some shots and kept going from there."
Aldridge and Jonathon Simmons finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively, and were the only other Spurs scoring in double figures. Aldridge drew the tough assignment of defending Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis early in the game.
Davis averaged 47.5 points in New Orleans' first two games, but finished with only 18 on 6-of-15 shooting in the loss to the Silver and Black. E'Twaun Moore also had 18 points for the Pelicans.
Popovich was asked about Aldridge's defense against Davis.
"He did a good job," he said. "You know, Anthony is obviously a great player. We just wanted to work on individual defense, so we didn't give him any help. We just let him guard him. You know, in the future that may not be what we do, but in some senses it wasn't a fair fight. They've got some important people who are out.
"I think Alvin (Gentry, New Orleans coach) has got him (Davis) playhing as hard as he can, but you know all of us in the NBA, we need all our pieces to be at our best. That's just the way it is. So, we just tried to limit him in the second half. More so than in the first half, but LA (Aldridge) did a good job on it."
Nicolas "Nico" Laprovittola did a solid job in backing up Mills, finishing with seven points, four rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. Laprovittola played with Ginobili on Argentina's Olympic team this summer. Laprovittola was 14 when Ginobili helped lead Argentina to the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
"For me, he's not a brother," Laprovittola said of Ginobili. "He's like a God. I grew up watching Manu on TV, watching Manu win the gold medal in the Olympics. It's an honor to play with Manu and play with the Spurs."
Laprovittola, 26, signed with the Spurs as a free agent on Sept. 26. He began his pro career with Lanus Buenos Aires in 2007, and played with the team until 2013. Laprovittola spent the last two years playing with Clube de Regatas do Flamengo in Brazil.
Laprovittola said he was "a little nervous" when he went into the game with 1:18 left in the first quarter.
"It was my first game at home," Laprovittola said. "But when I started, I felt good. I know I have to be ready when TP (Parker) or Patty are out. I try to be always very focused because I have to be ready all the time."
Popovich was impressed with Laprovittola's poise Saturday night.
"He didn't bat an eye," he said. "He went out and played like he was playing any place else in the world. You know, unimpressed ith the situation. he was a competitor. He just goes out and plays."
Popovich also had good things to say about backups Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee, who signed with the Spurs as free agents this summerl. Dedmon, a center, finished with five points, six rebounds and two blocks. A forward/center, Lee had six points and five rebounds.
"Dewayne Dedmon was very active," Popovich said. "He's doing a wonderful job off the bench, as is David Lee. Dewayne's game, you know, he's running, he's playing defense, he's rebounding, giving us a lot of energy. David Lee, you know, he's a basketball player. He knows how to play. He fits in into any kind of situation."
Here is a quarter-by-quarter rundown of Saturday night's game:
Final: Spurs 98, Pelicans 79. Spurs are now 3-0 and Pelicans drop to 0-3.
Fourth quarter (5:43): Spurs 96, Pelicans 71. Davis Bertans hits a 3-pointer. Timeout.
Fourth quarter (8:29): Spurs 91, Pelicans 66. Starting from the free-throw line, Jonathon Simmons throws down rim-rattling dunk, bringing a roar from the crowd.
Fourth quarter (8:47): Spurs 89, Pelicans 66. San Antonio playing with reserves.
End of third quarter: Spurs 83, Pelicans 60. Kawhi Leonard scored 16 of his 20 points in the third period to lead the Silver and Black's charge. The Spurs outscored the Pelicans 28-15 in the third quarter. Patty Mills has scored 18 points, and has nailed 4 of 7 shots from the 3-point line.
Third quarter (6:16): Spurs 69, Pelicans 56. Patty Mills hit a 3-pointer to put S.A. up by 13. Timeout New Orleans.
Third quarter (7:34): Spurs 66, Pelicans 54. Patty Mills scores on a layup. Assist Pau Gasol. Timeout New Orleans.
Halftime: Spurs 55, Mills 45. Mills beats the buzzer with a 3-pointer.
Halftime notes: Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge lead the Spurs with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Starting for Tony Parker at point guard, Mills has nailed 3 of 4 shots from the 3-point line and is 4 for 5 overall. Pau Gasol and Kyle Anderson lead the Silver and Black under the boards with five rebounds each. San Antonio shot 45.2 percent (19/42) in the first half. The Spurs are 6 of 11 from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis scored 14 points and E'Twaun Moore 11 for the Pelicans. Davis had 50 and 45 points in New Orleans' first two games. The Pelicans shot 46.3 percent (19/41) from the field in the first half, but were only 1 of 8 from the 3-point line. Davis and Omer Asik, were the top rebounders for New Orleans with four each.
Second quarter (2:13): Spurs 48, Pelicans 38. Kawhi Leonard jams one through on a drive, putting the Silver and Black up by 10. Timeout New Orleans.
Second quarter (5:43): Spurs 39, Pelicans 29. Backup point guard Nico Laprovittola completes a 3-point play to put the Silver and Black up by 10.
Second quarter (8:50): Spurs 31, Pelicans 25
End of first quarter: Spurs 28, Pelicans 23
First quarter (3:51): Spurs 20, Pelicans 15. Timeout Sprs. LaMarcus Aldridge has scored the Spurs' last eight points. His last basket was a 3-pointer.
First quarter (5:57): Spurs 12, Pelicans 12. Timeout. Pau Gasol leads the Spurs with seven points. His third made field goal was a 3-pointer.
Pregame notes: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked during his pregame session with reporters how one game-plans for a player such as New Orleans center/forward Anthony Davis. "You just do what you do, (and) hope it works." . . . The Spurs are playing their third game in five nights. "Tomorrow is going to be four games in six nights," Popovich said. "It's ridiculous. They (Pelicans) played at 8:30 last night and they have to play a back-to-back tonight. Seems like you could figure that out." Told by a reporter that he didn't think the Spurs don't have a set of four games in five nights this season, Popovich said, "I stopped looking. When it happens, then I know. Looking ahead of time is just depressing." . . . Popovich was succinct when he was asked how a young player such as Jonathon Simmons becomes more consistent. "Minutes," he said. "Just got to play." . . . Popovich has said in the past that Kawhi Leonard's next challenge will be to become more consistent in all phases of his game. So how does Popovich think Leonard is doing? "I think if you look at his progression over the last couple of years, and he enjoys the responsibility. He welcomes it and he's done well in that environment. I haven't given him that talk this season because I don't think he needs it. He already understands the position he's in, what's expected, and his position on the team." Leonard worked in the offseason to get to the free-throw line more often, and it's paid off so far. He has gone 22 of 22 at the line in the Spurs' first two games. "He absorbed a lot of contact, I thought, last year," Popovich said. "He could have gotten foul calls. He's done a better job of making sure the referee has to make a call, because he's been very aggressive on his drives to the rim."
Spurs (2-0) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (0-2)
Tipoff: 7 p.m., Saturday, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Won 102-94, at Sacramento, Thursday
Pelicans’ last game: Lost 122-114, New Orleans, Friday
Noteworthy: The Warriors’ Anthony Davis has scored 95 points in first two games.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Leonard, Pelicans' Davis off to torrid starts
SAN ANTONIO – Two of the NBA’s top players will be on the floor Saturday night when the Spurs host the New Orleans Pelicans in their home opener.
San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard has scored 65 points and made 10 steals while helping the Silver and Black jump out to a 2-0 start. After finishing with a career-high 35 points and five steals in Tuesday night’s 129-100 rout of Western Conference favorite Golden State, Leonard had 30 points and another five steals in a 102-94 win at Sacramento on Thursday night.
Leonard is the first NBA player to record back-to-back 30-point, five-steal games since Eddie Jones accomplished the feat while playing for Miami in December 2002.
New Orleans center/forward Anthony Davis also has had stellar back-to-back games. He finished with 50 points, 16 rebounds and seven steals in the Pelicans’ 117-102 loss to Denver in their opener Wednesday night, and had 45 points and 17 rebounds in a 122-114 defeat to Golden State on Friday night. Both losses were in New Orleans.
Davis was selected by New Orleans with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and is a three-time All-Star.
Spurs Tony Parker (rest), Manu Ginobili (rest) and Danny Green (left-quad strain) will not play in Saturday night's game, the first of a back-to-back for San Antonio. The Silver and Black play at Miami at 5 p.m. Sunday. Patty Mills will start for Parker at point guard, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. Kyle Anderson has subbed for Green at shooting guard in the first two games.
Jrue Holiday (personal), Tyreke Evans (right knee) and Quincy Pondexter are out for the Pelicans.
Leonard, the league’s defensive player of the year the past two seasons, hit 11 of 21 shots against Sacramento and also had three rebounds and five assists. He has gone 22 of 22 from the free-throw line in the first two games.
Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and five rebounds in the win over the Kings. Backups David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon, both signed by San Antonio as free agents this summer, each scored 12 points and were the only other Spurs players in double figures. Lee and Dedmon each hit 5 of 6 field-goal attempts.
Lee and Dedmon led a San Antonio bench that outscored Sacramento’s reserves 43-18. The Silver and Black’s backups had 54 points in the season-opening win over Golden State, compared to 16 for the Warriors’ bench.
Next up for Spurs: at Miami, Sunday, 5 p.m.
Next up for Pelicans: vs. Milwaukee, Tuesday, 7 p.m., New Orleans
Tip-ins: Saturday night’s game will be the Spurs’ first home opener since 1996 without iconic power forward Tim Duncan, who retired in July. Duncan joined the Silver and Black in 1997 after being selected by San Antonio with the No. 1 overall pick in that year’s NBA draft. He is the only Spur to play on all five of the franchise’s championship teams . . . The Silver and Black shot 45.6 percent (36/79) and had nine turnovers in the win over the Kings. They were 33.3 percent (6/18) from the 3-point line. Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills each had two 3-pointers and finished with eight and six points, respectively . . . Davis made 17 of 31 shots in 39 minutes against Golden State on Friday night. He was 17 of 34 in 41 minutes against Denver in the opener.
(© 2016 KENS)