Aldridge leads Spurs past Clippers in Leonard’s home debut
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs are slowly returning to full health, something the Los Angeles Clippers can only hope for.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 19 points and San Antonio beat the undermanned Clippers 109-91 on Monday night in Kawhi Leonard’s home debut this season.
Los Angeles was without five players, including leading scorers Blake Griffin and Lou Williams, but San Antonio had little empathy considering the rash of injuries it has faced.
“We’re going through the same thing,” said Spurs veteran Tony Parker, who played in just his 10th game. “We don’t have everybody and we have a lot of guys in minute restrictions and stuff like that. Other teams, they’re coming at us and so, we have to do the same thing. You just have to respect them and (know that) everybody can play in the NBA.”
Parker had 16 points and seven assists in 23 minutes, his second-longest stint after missing the first 19 games while recovering from left quadriceps tendon surgery.
San Antonio is taking a similar incremental approach with Leonard, limiting his minutes after he missed the first 27 games of the season due to right quadriceps tendinopathy.
“He didn’t get hurt again, so, he’s OK,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Leonard’s abbreviated outing.
Leonard did not play in the second half against the Clippers after scoring seven points in 16 minutes during the first half, ending his streak of 110 straight games scoring in double figures.
The 6-foot-7 forward made his first attempt, pulling up from 13 feet in the lane for his first points in the AT&T Center since May 9. Leonard gave the crowd and the Spurs’ bench a scare when he tumbled awkwardly to the court on a contested layup, but he got up quickly while shaking his head over the non-call as Popovich screamed at the officials.
Leonard attempted only seven shots, driving and kicking the ball more than he attempted to shoot. San Antonio was minus-three when Leonard was on the court as the team tries to work him back into the lineup.
“It’s very hard to tell because he’s playing only 15 minutes,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said. “The rotation is not quite there. So, I think it’s a work in progress.”
The Clippers are weeks away from being able to make any major assessments, with Griffin expected to miss two months after spraining his left knee Nov. 27 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“This has just been a terrible season so far for our health,” guard Austin Rivers said. “Seems like one guy comes in, two guys go out. One guy comes in, two guys go out. Two guys come back, one guy goes out. It’s just constant. We’ve got to keep our head up.”
Los Angeles rookie Jamil Wilson had a season-high 13 points. DeAndre Jordan also scored 13 to go with 14 rebounds.
Parker played 23 minutes, one fewer than his season high at Dallas on Dec. 12. The Spurs’ longtime point guard is encouraged by his progress after tearing his left quadriceps tendon May 4 in the playoffs against Houston, but is eager to return to playing full-time.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just have to be patient,” Parker said. “It’s going to come, slowly but surely, but I’m just happy to be out there and just play. I’m on a minute restriction, so I can’t play back-to-back.”
The previous time Leonard failed to reach double digits in scoring was Jan. 12, 2016, against Detroit. He shot 1 for 7 from the field while finishing with seven points.
Wilson, a rookie out of Marquette, was 3 for 10 on 3-pointers in topping his previous season high of 10 points at Washington last Friday. “He’s looking for a shot and he’s more comfortable,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Jamil has an NBA skill and that is that he can shoot the 3 and he can stretch the floor.”
Clippers: Austin Rivers was cleared to play after suffering a concussion Dec. 13 against Orlando. ... Griffin missed his 10th game with a sprained MCL. The Clippers were also without Patrick Beverley (right knee surgery), Danilo Gallinari (left glute contusion), Wesley Johnson (sore left foot) and Williams (sprained right foot). ... Jordan is donating $100 for every rebound this season. He raised his season total to $43,000. ... The Clippers are 7-2 when holding opponents below 100 points.
Spurs: Popovich said F Kyle Anderson is expected to travel with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip. Anderson has missed eight straight games with a sprained left MCL. ... G Danny Green missed his second straight game with tightness in his left groin. ... Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jeff Hornacek and Larry Bird are the only players in the past 30 years to shoot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent on 3-pointers at home. ... Patty Mills joined Ginobili and Malik Rose as the only Spurs in franchise history to score 3,000 points off the bench.
Clippers: Host Phoenix on Wednesday night for the first time since beating the Suns by 42 points on Oct. 20.
Spurs: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night in the opener of a three-game road trip.
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