You might not believe this, but LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t have a seamless transition into the San Antonio Spurs offense during the season-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Overall, the Spurs played a terrific game until the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, when Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and—cough—Dion Waiters connected on some big shots down the stretch. OKC pulled away for a thrilling 112-106 victory that ended in relatively unexciting fashion.
Nevertheless, while San Antonio struggled to close, the biggest takeaways were encouraging developments.
San Antonio Would’ve Beaten Most Teams; OKC Is Better Than Most
Kawhi Leonard was fantastic. We’ll get to him.
In general, though, it was obvious this Spurs team—starters and second unit—can score, score and score some more. San Antonio connected on 48.4 percent of its shots and registered 52 points in the paint.
There aren’t many opponents that can stop the silver and black when the offense performs like it did on Wednesday, Unfortunately for the Spurs, Oklahoma City is one of few franchises that fits the mold.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News notes Danny Green said:
"“I thought we played good enough to beat a lot of teams in this league. But we didn’t play a lot of teams. We played OKC, and they’re pretty dang good.”"
San Antonio needs to finish better, there’s no question about it. The Thunder ripped off a 22-9 run over those final six minutes, and that’s not an acceptable trend for the Spurs in the future.
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But other than Oklahoma City, the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and only a couple more, considering the way the Spurs had played, the score wouldn’t even have been close.
Aldridge Fits, Have Patience
Aldridge’s debut with San Antonio won’t be remembered forever, but one possession in particular immediately stood out as a sign of things to come.
It was a simple pick-and-pop that everyone knew would be a staple of the Spurs attack, especially with Aldridge. The power forward set a screen for Tony Parker and rolled into the vacated area on the right wing.
Not the left! The right! Stunning, you know?
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Aided by a little lazy defense by Westbrook, Aldridge found himself open for a basically uncontested shot. It didn’t fall, but it’s safe to say San Antonio will take this look 100 times out of 100.
Just look at the space Aldridge has to safely hoist a mid-range jumper over a scrambling Westbrook.
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He finished 4-of-12 from the field, managing 11 points, five rebounds and one assist. The disappointing part of Aldridge’s night was that he missed all four shots during the final quarter, but it happens.
Aldridge is going to fit. When the shots start falling, it’ll be even more apparent.
Kawhi Leonard Is Ridiculous
It’s only one game. All together now: It’s only one game. Everybody remember: It’s only one game.
Kawhi is really, really, really—deep breath—really, really good.
He smashed the Thunder for 32 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks while holding Durant to a 6-of-19 mark on the offensive end.
Leonard attacked the rim with tremendous success, took over drilled a pull-up three-pointer and even scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting during the fourth quarter.
It’s only one game, but Leonard was an absolute star in that single outing.