The San Antonio Spurs knew they would need a solid performance to eliminate the Houston Rockets without two of their star players on Thursday night.
That is where LaMarcus Aldridge stepped in.
Aldridge scored a playoff-high 34 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as he led the Spurs to a 114-75 win over the Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals inside the Toyota Center to clinch the series.
”I just touched it a little bit more tonight so I had a chance to figure it out,” Aldridge said. ”I was trying to be more dominant down there. So I was willing to take some contested shots tonight and I got into my rhythm early and after that I was good to go.”
San Antonio led by as many as 41 points and led by 19 at halftime. Houston would cut the San Antonio lead to just 22 with a pair of three-pointers, but would never get any closer.
The big game from the $84 million man ensured he advanced to his first conference final for the first time in his career. Without Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker, Aldridge was aggressive early and often, demanding the ball and getting into his spots.
Now the trick is to make sure it works once Leonard returns to the court. If the Spurs can find the right balance for Leonard and Aldridge, watch out.
The Rockets were led by Trevor Ariza’s 20 points. James Harden struggled, scoring just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
”Everything falls on my shoulders,” Harden said. ”I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor. It’s tough, especially the way we lost at home for Game 6. But it happened and we move forward.”
Up next: The Spurs will now take on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals with Game 1 set for Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. inside Oracle Arena.