The Spurs won their fifth Christmas Day game (out of 11 in franchise history) and their first since 2008 (over the Phoenix Suns) as they took care of the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon in the AT&T Center.
The two biggest stars on the team carried the bulk of the load for San Antonio as Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge had efficient nights while the team as a whole played well and shared the ball. The team finished with 30 assists on their 48 buckets.
LaMarcus Aldridge came out on fire, knocking down a string of 18-footers to give the Spurs a 8-0 advantage in the first three minutes of the game. Kawhi Leonard wanted in on the action and threw in nine-straight for the silver and black on a pair of triples and a trip to the foul line for three freebies. With a little less than six to play in the first the Spurs held a 23-6 advantage with Kawhi and Aldridge scoring 11 and 12, respectively.
Those two wouldn’t score all of the points for San Antonio in this one but they did finish with 58 on 22-for-34 from the field combined.
After nine minutes of play the Spurs had doubled up the Bulls, 30-15 on 92% shooting, Tony Parker being the only Spur to have missed a shot. LA was a perfect 8-8, all twos, as he outscored the Bulls on his own. By the end of the quarter LaMarcus had 20 of the Spurs’ 36, the most he’s scored in a quarter as a Spur.
After going up 30-10, San Antonio let Chicago back into the game as the Bulls took advantage of San Antonio turnovers and knocked down some three pointers, pulling within four at 39-35. Aldridge checked back into the game and of course hit another long two, Simmons hit a triple and Kawhi hit a tough jumper to give the Spurs a 47-35 lead halfway through the second.
A strong finish to the half from the Bulls and some sloppy play from the Spurs made what started as a blowout a close game. Give the Bulls a lot credit — its not easy to go down 20 on the road to a good team and crawl back into the game. But the Bulls did just that and SA held a shaky 55-50 at the break.
The third quarter was competitive to start and Chicago actually took their first lead of the game, 70-67, on a Jimmy Butler triple with five minutes left in the quarter. The Spurs steadied themselves and used the last five minutes to open up a double-digit lead, outscoring the visitors 20-6 over that stretch of play. And with that the silver and black took an 87-76 lead going into the final period of the contest.
Danny Green got into the action and he hit a pair of threes early in the fourth that extended the advantage for the home team. Kawhi followed that and hit an impossible end-of-the-shot-clock triple and even Tony Parker knocked down a shot from long distance to put the Spurs up 14 and the Spurs took full command of the game.
That was it for Chicago, they used up all of their energy with that impressive comeback from down 20 and San Antonio sealed the deal. Pop emptied the bench with 2:23 left to play.
Let’s end this one with a Kawhilight.
Your Spurs improve to 25-6, remain in the second position in the West, and are just a game back from the Warriors in the loss column after Golden State’s loss to Cleveland earlier in the day. San Antonio is on a 66-win pace a little over a third of the way through their first season without Tim Duncan. That’s pretty ridiculous.
LaMarcus Aldridge hit his first 11 shots of the game and finished with a season-high 33 on 15-20 from the field. Somehow he was just 3-for-6 from the foul line. Go figure. This was Aldridge’s seventh 30+ point game as a Spur and the first this season.
Kawhi had a quiet 25 and 10 game. It was one of those games that Tim Duncan used to have where at the end of it you were surprised when you looked at the box score. He also finished with four assists, three steals and a block. He shot 50% from the field and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Dude’s pretty good.
Tony Parker had a season-high eight assists in this one. Take what you will from that.
Dewayne Dedmon once again gave the team great energy off of the bench. He only played 15 minutes but he scored nine points, grabbed six boards and even tallied a couple of helpers in his time on the court. He’s on a two-year $6 million deal. Clearly that’s great value for San Antonio but there is some downside for the Spurs — Dewayne has a player option next season and at this point he would definitely command a much higher salary than he’s scheduled to receive.
Robin Lopez played 19 minutes and finished with a game-low minus-26 as well as four turnovers. LaMarcus had a big part in that, hitting a multitude of shots over the big man.
The Spurs have now won 21 of the 21 games in which they’ve had a 10+ point lead.
The Spurs notched their fifth 30-assist game of the season, and their fourth in the last 11 games. And get this — Pop even said, “30 assists makes a coach happy.” When it was pointed out that Pop has now used the word happy twice in the last month he replied, “You should call me on that more. I’m getting soft in y old age. That hurt me. You wrecked my whole evening now.”
In their 31 games this season, San Antonio has held their opponent to 104 points (what the 15th highest scoring team, the Bucks, average) or less 24 times. h/t Paul Garcia
The Spurs have a light schedule coming up. The play two games at home this week, one on Wednesday against the Suns and then Friday against the Blazers. The team also won’t see another back-to-back for the next 12 games and have only two games against teams that have records better than .600 (Raptors and Cavaliers.)