Aldridge scores 31, Spurs now 4-0 after beating Heat 117-100
MIAMI (AP) San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was asked at least a half-dozen times Wednesday about the status of injured starters Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and when they might be returning.
His consistent answer: They’ll play when they’re ready.
With the way the Spurs have started, there’s no need to rush them.
LaMarcus Aldridge continued his hot start by scoring 31 points, Rudy Gay needed only eight shot attempts to score 22 off the bench and the Spurs stayed unbeaten by topping the Miami Heat 117-100.
”We really didn’t get a handle on our defense for basically the entire game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”That’s a big credit to what they do and how they execute, how they have purpose and intention to every single possession.”
The win was No. 1,154 for Popovich, now one shy of matching Phil Jackson for sixth-most in NBA history. Danny Green scored 15, Manu Ginobili had 14, Pau Gasol scored 13 and Kyle Anderson finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who – even without Parker and Leonard – are off to a 4-0 start for the second consecutive season.
Popovich wasn’t exactly celebrating afterward.
”I thought it was mediocre,” Popovich said. ”There were way too many mistakes. … Our offense got us through.”
Tyler Johnson scored 23 points for Miami, while James Johnson finished with 21 and Goran Dragic added 20. Dragic’s 3-pointer midway through the third got Miami within 61-60, but the Spurs soon took control for good.
Gay – who had Miami on his wish-list of teams when he was a free agent this past summer – scored 15 points in a 32-13 run that San Antonio put together in the next 9 minutes. The Spurs made seven consecutive shots to end the third, scored on 12 of their final 14 possessions of the quarter and led 93-73 when Gay connected on a stepback jumper with 10 minutes left.
”I’m just playing basketball at this point,” Gay said. ”It’s a lot of unknown with the lineups and we’ve got guys hurt. So right now we just have to play basketball.”
Miami got within 98-87 on a 3-pointer by Dragic with 5:33 left, but Aldridge stopped the Heat comeback try with a turnaround jumper and the margin remained double-digits the rest of the way.
”It’s tough to beat this kind of team if you’re playing well only on offense,” Dragic said. ”You need to get some stops. And tonight, our defense was not good.”
Spurs: Aldridge has scored at least 20 in all four games this season and this was the ninth time he’s had at least 31 in a Spurs uniform. San Antonio is 8-1 in those games. … The Spurs allowed 30 first-quarter points, a season-worst for any quarter. … Parker practiced Wednesday with the G League’s Austin Spurs in San Antonio, and will again Friday.
Heat: Miami led for exactly 2:00. … C Hassan Whiteside (bruised knee) missed his third consecutive game. … Josh Richardson was 1 for 8 in 33 minutes, missing all four of his 3-point tries and fouling out. … The Heat started 16 for 16 from the line, before Waiters came up short with 1:52 left. They finished 17 for 18.
Spoelstra gave fans of onomatopoeia a thrill when he switched his starting lineup, putting Bam Adebayo at center to jump against Gasol (though technically, the Bam-Pau matchup was brief and Adebayo guarded Aldridge to start the game). Adebayo is the first Heat rookie to start within the season’s first four games since Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley in 2008.
In the Latin gateway of Miami, Spanish-speaking players always are greeted at Heat games and Ginobili is no exception. Ginobili was swarmed by hundreds for a quick meet-and-greet pregame, taking selfies and giving out plenty of embraces. There were at least a half-dozen Argentinian flags being held by fans as well, and many wore his Spurs jersey.
Spurs: San Antonio’s four-game trip continues Friday in Orlando.
Heat: Miami plays Game 4 of its six-game homestand Saturday against Boston.