Spurs’ balance could be a handful for Charlotte (Jan 07, 2017)

How the Charlotte Hornets cope with the balanced offensive attack of the San Antonio Spurs will be a key aspect of the game play when the two teams meet on Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

The Spurs (29-7) return home after a dominating 129-91 win on Thursday over Denver in which LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 28 points. Kawhi Leonard added 24 points and Tony Parker, who has been hot of late, added 21 points and nine assists for the Spurs.

The victory over Denver improved the Spurs’ record on the road to 17-3; San Antonio is the only team in the NBA that’s been better on the road than at home (12-4) this season. The Spurs play five of their next six games at home.

Aldridge has been on a tear offensively, claiming San Antonio’s high-scorer honors in four of the Spurs’ past six games.

“He’s in a great rhythm right now and needs to stay like that,” Parker said of Aldridge. “He’s a great shooter, a great scorer. When he plays like that, he forces a double team and makes everybody’s job easier.”

San Antonio has also been buoyed by the continued solid play of center Pau Gasol, who was the Spurs’ main offseason free agent acquisition. Gasol is first on the team in rebounding (7.9), first among San Antonio’s regular starters in field-goal percentage (50.9 percent) and third in scoring (12.3 -points per game).

Gasol is one of only four players in NBA history and the sole active player to reach 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists and 1,500 blocks in his career.

“He’s a smart player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Every coach likes to add smart players to the mix.”

Charlotte (20-17) heads to the Alamo City for the only time in the regular season on the heels of a 115-114 loss at Detroit on Thursday.

The Hornets will be without shooting guard Nicolas Batum, who suffered a hyperextended right knee during the contest against the Pistons.

The team confirmed the injury diagnosis during an MRI exam on Friday. There was no structural damage found.

Meanwhile, the Hornets roared back in the fourth quarter from a 19-point deficit and led by one in the closing seconds before two free throws by the Pistons’ Reggie Jackson with 1.9 seconds to play dropped Charlotte to its third loss in its past four games.

“The bottom line is that if we want to be the team that I think we can be, you got to win tonight,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford. We just aren’t where, to me, where we need to be. We had very little defensive readiness to start and we got to get better bench play.”

Kemba Walker poured in 20 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter in which the Hornets scored a season-high 44 points, but still came up short. Marvin Williams added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Hornets in the loss while Spencer Hawes hit for 18 points.

“It’s frustrating,” Hawes said after the loss. “We battled, and we don’t have to question whether this team is going to do that or not.

“When you dig a hole on the road like we did (Thursday), especially on the second night of a back-to-back, you put so much into just getting yourself back into the game and just giving yourself a chance,” Hawes continued. “That being said, it came down to a one-possession game at the end.”

San Antonio beat the Hornets 119-114 when the two teams met on Nov. 23 at Spectrum Center. The Spurs own a nine-game home win-streak against Charlotte dating back to Nov. 15, 2006 and have won 38 of the 53 games the teams have played all-time.