Aldridge has 28 points and 10 rebounds, Spurs beat Bulls
CHICAGO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs aren’t sure when Kawhi Leonard’s season will start.
Fortunately for them, there’s another All-Star forward on the roster to carry the load.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Spurs to an 87-77 victory over the Chicago Bulls in the Bulls’ home opener.
It was his second straight double-double after signing a three-year contract extension a day before the season began.
“I’ve been in a different mindset since the summer started,” Aldridge said. “That carried over to training camp to preseason to now. I don’t think I’ve changed after the contract. My mindset coming into the season was to try to be more dominant.”
Rudy Gay added 12 points for the Spurs, who have not provided a timetable for Leonard’s return from a right quadriceps injury, though Popovich said it will be “weeks rather than months.”
In the meantime, they’ll ride Aldridge, who scored 12 points in a 22-13 run that gave the Spurs a 63-51 third-quarter lead.
“They moved the ball better than we did,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought they shared it. They got more open shots than we did. I thought they did a great job.
“L.A. was just a difference maker for us, the way he scored. The defense in the second half and L.A.’s offense was what got us over. I thought they actually executed better than we did.”
Robin Lopez had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bills, also short-handed without power forwards Niko Mirotic (facial fractures, concussion) and Bobby Portis (suspension).
Rookie Lauri Markkanen, thrust into the starting lineup because of an incident in practice Tuesday that ultimately sidelined both Mirotic and Portis, had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Spurs: Rookie guard Brandon Paul, who grew up in nearby Gurnee, appeared in his first NBA game, logging six seconds of action in the second quarter. The 26-year-old Paul, a former University of Illinois standout, was Mr. Basketball of Illinois as a senior at Warren Township High School in 2009. ... The Spurs shot just 40.9 percent from the field but held the Bulls to 37.8 percent.
Bulls: Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career in the third quarter. ... Justin Holliday scored 15 points, but shot 5 of 18 from the field. ... Denzel Valentine played after missing Friday’s practice with knee soreness. He scored four points in 26 minutes.
Suspended Bulls forward Portis offered an apology to injured teammate Mirotic prior to the game in his first public comments since punching Mirotic in practice Tuesday and sidelining him for 4-6 weeks with two fractured bones in his face and a concussion.
“I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” Portis said. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”
Portis was suspended eight games. He said he has reached out to Mirotic but has not received a response.
Popovich was impressed with Markkanen. “He’s a wonderful player,” Popovich said. “He’s aggressive. He’s smart. Obviously he can shoot the basketball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”
Spurs: Host Toronto on Monday night.
Bulls: At Cleveland on Tuesday night.
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