The San Antonio Spurs concluded their 2017-2018 preseason schedule with one final victory Friday evening in Houston against the Rockets. While the Spurs were without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Dejounte Murray, the Rockets didn’t have Chris Paul either. Still, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gay led the Spurs to a 106-97 victory.
Here were four standout Spurs players from the win against Houston.
LaMarcus Aldridge: 26 points (57% FG), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals in 36 minutes
There’s been one constant standout player for the Spurs in the preseason and that’s been Aldridge. With Leonard out for all of the preseason due to injury and with Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich announcing Friday Leonard will miss the season opener against Minnesota next week, the rest of the Spurs who will be playing know exactly who to go to on the offensive end – Aldridge. Being defended by Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela, as well as different mismatches at times, Aldridge continued his stellar play in the preseason as he continued to score out of the low block, with pick-and-pop action, with high lows, with cutting action and with his over the shoulder fade. San Antonio continued to feed him if he had position against his defender and if Aldridge didn’t hoist a shot attempt, he was probably kicking out to open players because the defense sent a double team his way.
Knowing that Leonard will be out for the season opener, the Spurs have used these five preseason games to make Aldridge comfortable early and they know the spots he likes to receive the ball at to operate. He’ll be the focal point against Minnesota with their frontcourt unit of Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson, and Gorgui Dieng Wednesday.
Kyle Anderson: 13 points (83% FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 26 minutes
Anderson started at the 3 in place of Leonard and there’s a strong chance he’ll do so as well in the season opener. Anderson had a quiet, yet efficient game, as he continued to make the most of the possessions when the ball was in his hands at different times. With him being a ball handler who can play in the paint or out on the wing, he used a number of different scoring ways to get past the Houston defense. For instance, when he had a big man guarding him down low in the paint, he used two pump fakes to get the defender off his feet and when Anderson took the shot, he drew the contact and foul. Then, Anderson found himself being defended by James Harden on the baseline. Instead of stopping his dribble, he used a hesitation move to get free from Harden and finish with an open reverse layup. Defensively, Anderson helped to disrupt Houston’s offense by getting his hands in passing lanes under the rim.
Rudy Gay: 14 points (55% FG), 7 rebounds, 3 assists in 24 minutes
In terms of shooting the basketball, Gay was more aggressive as he took 11 shots in the match off the bench. He showed his wide set of skills on offense in his ability to be a ball handler and run the pick-and-roll, and on one specific possession, he saw a defender run toward him, and he threw a direct behind-the-back pass to Brandon Paul in the corner for a made 3-pointer. Gay also showed the ability to once again hit the spot-up 3-pointer when he was off the ball as well.
Joffrey Lauvergne: 10 points (71% FG), 8 rebounds, 2 assists in 20 minutes
The Spurs shortened their frontcourt rotation Friday by mainly using combinations of Pau Gasol/Aldridge, Aldridge/Lauvergne, Gasol/Lauvergne, and even a Lauvergne/Gay combination. Regardless, Lauvergne has shown he’s earned Dewayne Dedmon’s old role as the backup center off the bench. Lauvergne once again displayed his wide array of skills as he was able to post-up and finish with a few jump hooks, collect a few assists by finding open teammates and he even helped in crashing the glass. With Lauvergne on offense, the Spurs can continually keep a big on the floor that can either space the floor or play in the low block at any time.
Up Next: The Regular Season
The Spurs will have four days off to prepare for their home season opener Wednesday when they host Minnesota. As mentioned above, Leonard will not play in the opener but based on the Spurs going 3-2 in the preseason without him and Aldridge playing very well heading into the season, San Antonio has a strong chance for a positive result in the season opener.