Balanced Spurs coast past Knicks
SAN ANTONIO — The month of December has seen San Antonio work to perfect a “twin towers” attack to utilize the strengths of forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center Pau Gasol, and help spread the floor and find a reliable option against the league’s big front lines.
That strategy was on full display again Thursday when Aldridge scored a game-high 25 points and Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds to rack up his fourth straight double-double as the Spurs rolled past the New York Knicks 119-107 on Thursday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
All five starters scored in double figures for San Antonio (25-11), which won for its third straight game and sixth in its past seven outings. Kyle Anderson, who started in favor of Kawhi Leonard, scored 16 points.
Danny Green and Tony Parker hit for 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Spurs. Bryn Forbes added 10 points off the San Antonio bench.
San Antonio’s proficiency with the high-low offense has been honed as Aldridge, the Spurs’ big free agent acquisition in 2015, has built chemistry with Gasol, who signed with San Antonio prior to the 2016-17 campaign.
“We are just playing well together right now,” Gasol said. “We have to try to keep it up — keep it going. LaMarcus and I have developed an understanding where he can feed off my passing from the high post and that gives him an opportunity to get into deeper positions and go to work against smaller guys or lighter guys without a chance of getting double teamed.
“I’m just reading the plays, trying to find the mismatches and attacking them. We want to maximize our size and shot that it works. As a consequence, we have both been on the floor some more and that’s helped our production.”
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it’s taken some time for Aldridge and Gasol to develop the synergy they’ve shown though the first 36 games.
“Gasol and Aldridge play with each other a lot better,” Popovich said. Pau was new here last year so now he’s understanding the offense and what we are trying to do. He and LA (Aldridge) have learned about each other and that’s what every team has to do when it gets new guys.”
Michael Beasley paced New York with 23 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Kristaps Porzingis (who fouled out with 2:30 to play) and Courtney Lee tallied 18 points apiece, while Enes Kanter scored 12 points and Frank Ntilikina recorded a career-high 11 assists for the Knicks (17-18), who lost for the fourth straight game.
New York’s reserves outscored the Spurs’ bench 51-32 to help keep the game close but San Antonio made more free throws (28 of 39) than the Knicks attempted (20 of 22).
“We fought hard — this is not an easy building to get a win in,” Beasley said. “We showed perseverance and grit. Now we have to put everything together. We are going to figure things out — we still have time.”
The Spurs led by as many as 11 points in the first half and settled for a 54-53 advantage at halftime on the strength of Parker’s 14 points, 11 from Gasol and 10 from Aldridge.
The Knicks were behind from the opening tip, surrendering the first eight points. New York got 10 points apiece from Kanter and Porzingis over the first 24 minutes.
Gasol’s 3-pointer at the 2:05 mark of the third quarter staked the Spurs to an 84-71 lead, but New York refused to buckle, fighting back to within 86-79 at the end of the quarter on two baskets by Kyle O’Quinn and a layup by Beasley.
“Overall I thought we played well,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We didn’t get enough stops — they shot 51 percent, and there were some tough matchups for us in there with Aldridge’s size and Gasol’s length and passing. But we never quit — we battled back. The Spurs got a lot of 50-50 balls that they turned into 3-pointers at crucial times. Our effort tonight was great.”
NOTES: San Antonio announced about 45 minutes prior to tip-off that F Kawhi Leonard would not play Thursday as part of his injury management program. Leonard, who has played in only five of the Spurs’ 36 games because of a quad injury, scored a season-high 21 points in a season-most 26 minutes Tuesday in the Spurs’ 109-97 victory over Brooklyn. ... The Knicks played without G Tim Hardaway Jr., who has a stress injury to his lower left leg and could miss a few games. ... New York reserve Cs Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez were active for the game but neither saw any action. Hernangomez, who was on the all-rookie team last season, has not played in 11 of the past 12 games.