VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 14
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Spurs blast Jazz, appear to be hitting their stride — A team boasting an 80.8 win percentage a week or so before Christmas is usually pretty impressive stuff. Yet the 21-5 San Antonio Spurs — like every other team in the league — have taken a backseat to the storylines surrounding the defending-champion Golden State Warriors’ 24-1 start to 2015-16. It’s becoming hard to deny how solid this Spurs team is, though, and last night’s 118-81 romp of the visiting Utah Jazz further illustrates that point. Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com has more:
After the San Antonio Spurs’ 118-81 blowout win Monday over the Utah Jazz, coach Gregg Popovich said his team can analyze the “same things we take from a loss.”
In this case, after San Antonio recorded its 13th victory at home, and NBA-best ninth win by 20 points or more, according to ESPN Stats and Information, the Spurs — which expressed concerns earlier in the season about the offense — seem to be finally gelling into what the brass envisioned before the start of the season.
With the 37-point win, San Antonio now owns the highest margin of victory in the NBA this season; yes, even better than the Golden State Warriors, who have played one less game. Interestingly, the Spurs captured 11 victories last season by margins of 20 points or more but are already up to nine such wins this season.
“It’s always tough to have big leads in the NBA,” said Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who finished with 18 points as one of five of the team’s double-figure scorers. “We have been able to keep it at that the last two games. It’s not easy to win two games like that in a row. So it shows that our concentration was good tonight.”
But perhaps one of the more significant developments over San Antonio’s past two games: LaMarcus Aldridge finding a level of comfort in the system.
Over the past two games, Aldridge has connected on a combined 11 of 19 attempts for 31 points while contributing 14 rebounds.
Those numbers aren’t gaudy by any means, but Popovich likes what he has seen. Aldridge, who started the game 5-of-7 from the floor, made all six of his free throw attempts to finish the game with 18 points.
“He did a good job of getting to his spots,” Leonard said. “He got some offensive rebounds, made some layups, got a rhythm going and made some shots.”
Popovich said earlier in the season that Aldridge was “deferring” in an attempt to fit in with the new team, but it appears those days are coming to a close.
Now, “he’s getting his rhythm,” guard Danny Green said, adding that Aldridge “is getting more comfortable playing his game, doing his own thing and just getting settled in. That’s a good sign for us at this point in the season.”
“He had a lot of opportunities, and he took advantage of them,” Popovich said. “He’s a guy who’s getting used to this system more and more every game and feeling more and more comfortable. [He’s] not worrying about fitting in, not worrying about missing shots or anything like that. He’s just worrying about competing, and he’s doing a great job of it.”
VIDEO: San Antonio demolishes Utah to stay perfect at home
No. 2: Crowder still seeking apology from Smith for playoff hit — Last spring’s Celtics-Cavs playoff series in the first round was a chippy one, featuring a playoff-ending injury to Kevin Love as well as J.R. Smith hitting Jae Crowder in the face during the Cavs’ series-clinching Game 4 win. Crowder hasn’t forgotten that moment and as tonight’s showdown with the visiting Cavs (7:30 ET, NBA TV) looms, he’s looking for Smith to apologize or else. A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com has more:
Crowder, who was unable to return to the floor, has not dwelled on the incident which led to Smith being ejected and later suspended by the NBA.
But Crowder hasn’t totally moved on past it, either.
“I hope he apologizes tomorrow, to be honest with you,” Crowder said. “I hope it wasn’t intentional. But if he doesn’t, then we’ll play ball.”
When told by a reporter on Monday that the incident looked like a cheap shot, Crowder went into “both teams played hard” mode and responded, “I hope he apologizes tomorrow. If he doesn’t, we’ll play ball.”
In addition to the Crowder-Smith incident, Cleveland’s Kevin Love suffered a shoulder injury after him and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk were tangled up.
After the injury which sidelined Love for the rest of the playoffs, the All-Star forward said Olynyk tried to injure him on purpose which Olynyk denied.
The two communicated later in the summer, with Olynyk personally and publicly apologizing for the incident which he reiterated was not done intentionally.
At first Love did not accept Olynyk’s apology.
But in July, Love reached out to Olynyk to say that he had accepted his apology and that they were “all good.”
Crowder is hoping Smith will reach out in a similar fashion.
No. 3: Barnes out at least another week — Golden State doesn’t play again until Wednesday’s home date with the Phoenix Suns (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). As the Warriors try to start a new win streak (their 24-game run to open the season ended on Saturday), they’ll be doing so without the services of forward Harrison Barnes. According to Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com, interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t expect Barnes back this week:
Though Warriors forward Harrison Barnes tested his tender left ankle with light drills on Monday, he’s not ready to return to the lineup, interim coach Luke Walton announced.
“He won’t play this week,” Walton said after practice. “It’s nice to have the schedule that we have right now. With only two games the whole week, it would be a good chance for him to get some more rest and we’ll re-evaluate him at the end of the week.”
Barnes sprained the ankle in a win over Phoenix on Nov. 27 at Oracle Arena and left the arena that night on crutches. He went on the recent 14-day road trip but never came close to returning to action.
Barnes punctuated his post-practice session with a dunk, Walton said, but considerably more progress must be made before Barnes can practice without restrictions.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calls Rajon Rondo‘s comments about Bill Kennedy ‘disgusting’ … Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell is going back to the bench — again … Last summer, the Celtics, Blazers and Suns all reportedly made a run at trying to sign Kevin Love … Clint Capela has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Houston Rockets … Ex-Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown is sad to see his former team struggling so mightily … Luc Mbah a Moute is more than likely going to be on the Los Angeles Clippers’ roster all season … Last night, Manu Ginobili met a boy named ‘Ginobili’ … New York Knicks rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis is confident he hasn’t hit the rookie wall …
ICYMI(s) of the Night: Who dunked it better last night — Paul Millsap (over Hassan Whiteside) …
VIDEO: Paul Millsap jams over Hassan Whiteside
… or Will Barton (over Donatas Motiejunas)? …
VIDEO: Will Barton dunks on Donatas Motiejunas