SAN ANTONIO — LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have sought a balance between respecting San Antonio’s Big Three and completely taking over the Spurs.
The All-Star duo found their footing against the New Orleans Pelicans, helping San Antonio establish the best start at home in Western Conference history.
Aldridge had 36 points, setting his season high for the second consecutive game, and the Spurs beat the Pelicans 110-97 on Wednesday night to remain unbeaten at home.
"LaMarcus is feeling more and more comfortable all the time as the season progresses," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought he was magnificent on both ends. Anthony (Davis) got three points in the fourth quarter, and LaMarcus did a great job on him. So, I thought he was special."
Davis finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but no other New Orleans starter scored in the final quarter.
San Antonio (41-8) won its 27th straight home game to open the season, snapping a tie with the 1977-78 Portland Trail Blazers for the best home start among Western Conference teams. The Spurs are tied for the third-best home start in NBA history.
Aldridge was critical to another double-digit victory, shooting 12 for 20 from the field two days after scoring 28 points in a win over Orlando.
"The ball has been going in," he said. "I’m taking the shots and making them. Playing more confident and more like myself and I think that the team has fed off that energy."
The Spurs’ major off-season acquisition had plenty of help, especially from Leonard. The fellow West All-Star had 26 points and five rebounds.
Aldridge and Leonard combined to score 20 points in the final quarter, shooting 6 for 10. Aldridge made all eight of his free throws in the fourth.
"The last 5 minutes we had trouble coming up with any stops, and then we had trouble scoring," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "That usually spells doom."
On consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, Aldridge scored on a putback and Leonard backed down Jrue Holiday for a short hook shot to give San Antonio a 100-89 lead with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
Holiday added 20 points for New Orleans.
The Spurs went inside after having great success from long range.
Danny Green hit three consecutive 3-pointers as San Antonio closed the first quarter on a 13-4 run to turn a rare early deficit at home into a three-point lead. Green’s second 3 came after Toney Douglas missed a fast-break layup after turning back to see how close Boris Diaw was.
"We just lost track of some guys," Davis said. "Danny Green hit a couple of 3s. Kawhi hit some tough shots."
Green finished with 16 points while going 4 for 8 on 3s.
Tim Duncan missed his fifth straight game with a sore right knee and Davis took advantage of his absence early.
Davis scored 12 points in the opening quarter on 5-for-7 shooting as Aldridge and David West struggled to contain New Orleans’ All-Star forward.
Pelicans: Tyreke Evans missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee. New Orleans is 2-2 during Evans’ absence. … New Orleans is 6-4 in its past 10 games. … Norris Cole had 14 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Cole entered averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 assists and 53 per cent shooting on 3-pointers in place of Eric Gordon, who has a broken right ring finger. … G Bryce Dejean-Jones made his fourth start of the season two days after signing his second 10-day contract with New Orleans.
Spurs: New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman visited with San Antonio this week in an exchange of ideas between the two successful franchises. Cashman sat alongside Spurs general manager R.C. Buford during the game. . San Antonio matched its best start after 49 games, equaling the mark set in 2011. That team won its next three games before losing for the ninth time in 53 games.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili exited with 2 1/2 minutes remaining after being hit squarely in the groin by a charging Ryan Anderson. After tumbling to the ground, Ginobili headed for the locker room grabbing his side and holding a towel to his face.
Ginobili’s status was unknown, even to his teammates.
Aldridge laughed about the blow and said the Spurs’ super sub would be fine, as did West. But guard Tony Parker, Ginobili’s longtime friend and teammate, showed greater concern.
"I don’t want to joke with that," Parker said. "It doesn’t look good."
Popovich was assessed a technical foul, much to his dismay.
The Spurs’ fiery coach disputed a non-call earlier, but was standing quietly on the sideline when official Tony Brown called the technical following a 20-foot jumper by West with 7:36 remaining in the third quarter. After staring dumbfounded at Brown for about 30 seconds, Popovich began to storm onto the court but was held back by his assistants before he could take more than a step onto the floor.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
The Chicago Bulls own the league’s best home start, winning 37 straight games in 1995-96 to set the standard. Orlando won 33 consecutive home games that same season to sit second overall. The Spurs equaled the 27 straight wins by the Washington Capitols in 1947-48.
Pelicans: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Spurs: At the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.