Aldridge’s 41 lead Spurs past reeling Grizzlies
SAN ANTONIO — You knew it was going to be LaMarcus Aldridge’s night when he hit two 3-pointers in the opening minutes and found his rhythm before he even earnestly broke a sweat.
And as good as Aldridge was at the start, he was even better when it counted the most — down the stretch when San Antonio really needed him.
Aldridge scored a season-high 41 points, tying the most points he has scored for San Antonio, and the Spurs defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 104-95 on Wednesday at the AT&T Center.
His performance was his best in the regular season in the three years he has played for the Spurs and his fourth 30-plus point game of the season. Aldridge had 41 points in a playoff game in 2016 against Oklahoma City in his first year in San Antonio.
His career regular-season high is 44 points in 2014 against Denver when he was with Portland.
Aldridge shot 17 of 24 from the floor Wednesday.
“It feels good — I’m taking my time and finding my shots and trying to make the other guys better,” Aldridge said. “I just ended up having a good night. Everyone was looking for me and I was just trying to stay aggressive out there. When I hit an early 3-pointer from the top of the key that was kind of a fluke shot, I kinda figured this was going to be my night.”
San Antonio led 86-83 after Memphis’ Ben McLemore canned a 3-pointer with 7:31 to play. However, Aldridge scored nine points in the ensuing five minutes and Patty Mills poured in two 3-pointers to put the game on ice.
“It’s been the same all year — LaMarcus has been an all-star,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “The defensive end, the offensive end, being a leader, everything combined. He’s been fantastic, and he did it again tonight.”
The loss was the ninth in a row for the Grizzlies, who have not won since a road victory at Portland on Nov. 7. The swoon led to the firing Monday of coach David Fizdale, who has been replaced on an interim basis by J.B. Bickerstaff.
“It’s tough right now but we continue to play hard as a team every game,” Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans said. “Things just didn’t go our way but we have to fight through it. It’s my job to provide positive energy on the bench and keep everyone focused so that we can get back on track.”
Mills added 13 points for the Spurs (14-7), and Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker contributed 10 points apiece for San Antonio, which has won five of its past six games.
Evans led the Grizzlies (7-13) with 22 points, with James Ennis III and Andrew Harrison pumping in 15 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench. McLemore and Marc Gasol scored 10 points apiece.
Aldridge scored 17 of the Spurs’ first 19 points by hitting six of his first seven shots, including three 3-pointers. He had 24 points at halftime to help propel the Spurs to a 58-49 lead.
San Antonio led by as many as 12 points in the half and forced 11 turnovers by Memphis that led to 13 Spurs points.
Evans led the Grizzlies with nine points in the half, and Gasol added eight for Memphis.
“We were playing extremely hard and because we were giving such effort, we were playing a little fast at times,” Bickerstaff explained. “A lot of the turnovers we had came from being a little sped up. You’ve got to give our guys credit for the way they competed. They kept sticking with it. They showed great resolve. Now we’ve got to find the patience with that.”
Wednesday’s game was the first of a back-to-back between the teams, with a rematch Friday in Memphis.
NOTES: Spurs F LaMarcus Aldridge has now scored 30-plus points in back-to-back games eight times in his career and twice with the Spurs (March 2016). ... Memphis is 0-7 without PG Mike Conley this season after going 7-6 without Conley last season. Conley is sidelined because of an Achilles tendon injury. ... The Grizzlies have gotten 50-plus points from their bench six times this season (3-3 record). Memphis’ reserves have outscored their counterparts in all but one game this year. ... San Antonio’s Tony Parker made his second start of the season. He has the most career starts by active point guards with 1,131. Houston’s Chris Paul is second with 840.