Aldridge Dominant in Post, Struggling to Shoot

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LaMarcus Aldridge has found a bit of a groove since returning to the court from his heart arrhythmia. He’s averaging 21 points on 48% shooting in his last four games, and most of the success can be attributed to his work in the paint.

Aldridge’s jumper has been a bit off all season, and he’s shooting just 34% from mid-range in the past four games. However, he’s been getting to the rim effectively in that stretch. He’s made 23 of 38 shots in the paint, compared to just 13 of 38 two-point shots outside the paint.

Last night’s game exemplified this disparity, as Aldridge went 9/13 in the paint and 3/11 outside it. His inconsistent jumper is a bit concerning for the Spurs, but Aldridge can still impact the game positively as long as he works effectively in the low block.

Last night, the offense ran through Aldridge in the post for long stretches. He put up twelve points in the first quarter, attacking smaller and slower defenders and getting right to the rim. A lot of his early offense was very simple, and his teammates did a good job of getting him the ball when he ran the floor, dove to the basket, and got positioning in the paint.

Once Aldridge established himself as a dominant presence down low, he drew double teams when he received the ball in the post. When defenders helped off of Patty Mills and Danny Green, Aldridge kicked it out to the open shooters at the three-point arc. The two-man game worked well for the Spurs, because even when the defense recovered to prevent the initial open shot, the ball continued to move and the defense scrambled to get back into position.

Kawhi Leonard only scored two points in the first half and inexplicably didn’t attempt a shot in the second quarter, so Aldridge carried the load offensively. It wasn’t optimal, as San Antonio trailed 51-42 at halftime, but it could’ve been much worse.

Two of Aldridge’s made jumpers were open shots that came out of pick-and-pop sets with Danny Green, and the other was a tough isolation shot after sizing up Karl-Anthony Towns. Aldridge is always a danger to hit from the elbows and the wings, but he was more effective when he pump faked and attacked the closeout with a strong drive into the paint. He finished with a game-high 26 points in the win, adding five boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Aldridge has looked confident in attacking the rim, even though his jump shot remains an issue. That confidence will be key for the Spurs’ second scoring option as the playoffs approach.

San Antonio needs Aldridge to operate effectively in the post and continue to grab boards and play defense energetically. If he does start getting that jumper to go, that will take things to the next level for himself and the Spurs.

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