D'Antoni seemed to see the same thing.
With veteran point guard Tony Parker laid up in a San Antonio hospital room after surgery to fix a torn quadriceps tendon, coach Gregg Popovich was left with a patchwork lineup minus the nearly 35-year-old future Hall of Famer for the first time since April 2001. It shouldn't have to take an injury to Parker for Aldridge to step up, but we can't complain when he channels the type of player he was at the beginning of last year's series against OKC.
In pick-and-roll situations, the Spurs' help defenders are staying closer to their guys on the perimeter while the bigs hang way back under the basket, daring Harden to come at them and settle for contested two-point buckets. San Antonio was up by 10 soon after that before the Rockets used a 10-1 spurt, with all the points from Harden, to cut it to 56-55 midway through the quarter. Two games? No sir. The Rockets are at their best when they're creating mayhem in the open floor, so the more that tonight's game is played in the half-court, the better.
The Spurs were fine with Tony Parker as their second option, but they may be even better with this version of LaMarcus Aldridge complementing Leonard on the inside. No problem. At least for now.
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You don't go through 82 regular season games, accomplishing all they have - 55 wins, with the most efficiently explosive offense in the league - without establishing an identity. Should be fun to watch. Aldridge picked the ideal time to play his best game of the postseason, too, with the Spurs losing Tony Parker to a postseason- and possibly career-ending injury in Game 2. He's been a huge key for the Spurs. It's not even about Popovich's game-to-game adjustments, given he's viewed as one of, if not the greatest coach of all time. He can be cancelled out by James Harden (and largely was on Friday).
"This was his best game, obviously", Popovich said.
Aldridge has a history of big playoff games in Houston, posting the two highest-scoring games of his postseason career here by scoring 46 and 43 points in the first round against the Rockets in 2014 with Portland. The Spurs won by 11.
"I'm glad he did that", Murray said. He also made sloppy plays in the last quarter as the Rockets tried to fire their way back in to the game. That has to change if they expect to win another game, let alone win this series. Williams and Anderson took only 4 shots apiece, while Beverly took 13 himself and Ariza, encouraged by a strong first half shooting, took 12 threes. Credit the Spurs, who managed to do this while turning the ball over 20 times.
TORONTO - LeBron James scored 35 points, Kevin Love had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Toronto Raptors and take a 3-0 lead in their second-round playoff series. Sure, there's been a recent spat of teams coming back from a 3-1 deficit, but it's hard to see the Rockets turning a series around against a team as great as the Spurs.