Spurs fall short to Mavs in Leonard’s return: Three Standout Players

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The San Antonio Spurs fell 95-89 to the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night as they continued their three-game road trip.

The loss snapped a four game winning streak for the Silver and Black and it marked the first game of the season for Kawhi Leonard, who returned to the court for the first time since May in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Here is what went good and bad for the Spurs, as well as three standout players: Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay.

The Good:

  • Kawhi Leonard returned to action. It is always a good thing when your star player returns from injury.
  • Rudy Gay continues to show he is comfortable with each passing game.
  • San Antonio committed just 10 turnovers on the night.

The Bad:

  • The Spurs’ season-long trend of slow starts continued on Tuesday as Dallas raced out to an early 9-2 lead and were up 30-23 going into the second quarter. While I expected San Antonio to adjust to Leonard’s return, the Spurs have struggled to start games even before he returned.
  • Danny Green struggled going just 1-of-6 for 3 points.
  • Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili combined for 5 points and shot 1-for-7 from the floor.

Three Standout Players:

    Kawhi Leonard: After missing 27 games with a quad injury, how could the Spurs’ best player not be a standout? Leonard showed no signs of rust as he finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and an assist in 15 minutes of action.

I thought Leonard would be rusty in his first game since May, but he quickly shut me and everyone else up as he raced out to score six points right out of the gate. As expected, Coach Pop limited his minutes, but it has to be a major sign he is playing this well right out of an injury.

    LaMarcus Aldridge: With Leonard returning, everyone was wondering if LaMarcus Aldridge would be able to still play at a high level with him on the floor. The answer is yes…sort of. Aldridge finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds and had a great game overall. In the opening minutes of the game, Aldridge took just three shots and had zero points. Leonard had the ball more as he worked on getting some sort of a rhythm. When Leonard went to the bench we saw Aldridge become the LaMarcus we have seen throughout the season, scoring and becoming aggressive in the post.

Same goes for the fourth quarter when Leonard left the game. Aldridge took control and even got a three point play out of it. It is only one game and Kawhi does need to practice with the full starting squad, but I do wonder if Pop will start playing Kawhi and LaMarcus at separate times on the floor so both can get their scoring fill.

    Rudy Gay: The most important thing we saw Tuesday other than Leonard returning to the lineup was the aggressive play from Rudy Gay. The Spurs small forward scored 21 points on 72 percent shooting, as he and Leonard combined for 44 points in the game.

Gay’s play is promising as he continues to look extremely comfortable out on the floor as the season goes on. I do expect Gay and Leonard to feed off each other once the entire team gets more time to mesh together and play becomes tighter.

Up next:

The Spurs are now 19-9 on the season and will return to the court on Friday when they travel to Houston to face the Western Conference leading Rockets at 8:30 p.m. from the Toyota Center.

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