Aldridge leads Spurs to need victory over Magic,
By RAUL DOMINGUEZ
Mar. 14, 2018
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard is still out, but the Spurs welcomed back the confidence and edge they needed to snap a three-game skid.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and San Antonio never trailed after the opening minutes, holding the Orlando Magic to their season's lowest point total in a 108-72 victory on Tuesday night.
"Got to keep it, got to hone in on it, embrace it and use it for motivation," Aldridge said of the Spurs' frustration. "We're fighting for our (playoff) lives right now. So, guys have to use that frustration of losing so many in a row and just come out, just leave it all out there."
San Antonio is still without Leonard, who missed his 59th game of the season while battling right quadriceps tendinopathy. Leonard's injury is a key reason the Spurs are in the unusual position of fighting for a playoff berth after spending much of the previous two decades battling for a top three seed.
San Antonio cannot move any higher than ninth in the West following victories Tuesday by sixth-seeded New Orleans, the seventh-place Los Angeles Clippers and eighth-place Utah. Denver can remain in ninth place ahead of the Spurs with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's always good to get a win," said Danny Green, one of six Spurs in double figures. "Hopefully, it's a turning point moving in the right direction for us. Hopefully build some rhythm, some chemistry, some confidence. Different vibe, atmosphere so we can turn it around."
Following consecutive losses to the West's best in Golden State, Oklahoma City and Houston, San Antonio took advantage of an Orlando team that has now lost five straight.
"They obviously came in very motivated," Magic coach Frank Vogel said.
The Spurs have allowed 110.4 points in going 3-8 in its previous 11 games but returned to their defensive foundation for just their second home win in five games.
"Our defense fell down there for a period of time, and it's what we have to do," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We're not going to score on some nights, but the defense has to sustain us. We've got to get back to being one of the better teams in the league on D. We were for most of the year and then we kind of lost it."
The Spurs raced to their largest lead at halftime, 62-37, and extended that 25-point cushion to a 39-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Dejounte Murray gave the Spurs their first double-digit lead at 37-26 by stealing a pass intended for Shelvin Mack, dribbling behind his back to avoid Mack's recovery and then racing downcourt for a layup with 8 minutes left in the first half.
Three minutes later, Patty Mills stole the inbounds pass and hit a 3-pointer after getting the ball back from Kyle Anderson for a 50-29 lead.
Mills finished with 13 points and Murray, Danny Green and Pau Gasol each had 11.
Nikola Vucevic and Jonathon Simmons each had 10 points for the Magic, which has lost 12 of 14.
Magic: Simmons returned to the AT&T Center for the first time in the regular season after signing with the Magic in the offseason. Simmons had 20 points and 10 assists in a five-point victory in the preseason, but was held to 10 points and no assists. . Orlando is 9-16 in back-to-back games, including a 4-9 record in the opener following Tuesday's loss. . The Magic are 0-20 when scoring less than 100 points.
Spurs: San Antonio used its 24th different starting lineup this season. . The Spurs' largest halftime lead was 38 points at Phoenix on Feb. 7, which is a franchise record.
WHEN HE'S GOOD AND READY
Popovich is still uncertain when Leonard will play, although the star forward told reporters last week that he will return "soon."
"When he's ready to go," Popovich said. "He's got to get cleared by the doctors first and that hasn't happened yet, when that happens then he and I can make a decision."
Leonard was in uniform Tuesday, spending portions of the game sitting on a stack of folded towels rather than on the bench.
"I guess they'll give him a seat when he starts playing," Popovich said jokingly.
STARTING OVER AGAIN
Green found out just before tipoff that he was returning to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the previous nine games. He started at small forward for the first time this season alongside Anderson, Aldridge, Mills and Murray.
"The approach is the same as every game," Green said. "Come out and do my job. Be a defensive active player and let the offense come."
Magic: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Spurs: Host New Orleans on Thursday night.