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San Antonio Spurs: 3 hangover reactions to win over Hornets

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CHARLOTTE, USA - NOVEMBER 25: Marvin Williams (2) of Charlotte Hornets jumps to score during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, United States on November 25, 2017. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, USA - NOVEMBER 25: Marvin Williams (2) of Charlotte Hornets jumps to score during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, United States on November 25, 2017. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Following Saturday night’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets, which reactions remain for the San Antonio Spurs?

On Saturday, the San Antonio Spurs achieved its 12th win of the 2017-18 season, defeating the Charlotte Hornets, 106-86. It was three days after a blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, and potentially put the Silver and Black back on track.

This game showcased a balanced attack for the Spurs, with six players crossing double-digit points. It was a quality defensive performance, too, holding the Hornets below 40 percent shooting.

About 14 hours after this game ended, which reactions remain relevant for San Antonio? Let’s find out:

Squad got it done last night, defeating the Hornets 106-86 on the road.

HIGHLIGHTS ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/hcdz59K0Gp

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 26, 2017

3. Rudy Gay isn’t in any type of doghouse

There was a five-game stretch when Rudy Gay played 22 minutes or fewer minutes — five of which were in the teens. That was unlike anything he did in the first 12 games of the season, as he often played above 20-22 minutes per game for the San Antonio Spurs in the sixth man role.

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Since the game against the New Orleans Pelicans, however, Gay has returned to his usual minutes load. It resulted in 26 minutes vs. the Pelicans and 24 vs. the Hornets, where he scored double-digit points in both games for the first time in nearly two weeks. The former was a blowout, so the 31-year-old did receive garbage minutes but in the latter game, at least until the final few minutes, it wasn’t throwaway production.

Through these past two games, Gay has totaled 34 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists on 14-for-24 shooting and 2-for-6 from behind the arc. It’s steady production from the team’s expected sixth man, who doesn’t look like he’s in Gregg Popovich’s doghouse. That’s a good thing, as the Spurs can use any extra production to take the pressure off LaMarcus Aldridge.

Next: A terrific defensive team

2. This is a terrific defensive team

Calling the San Antonio Spurs a great defensive team isn’t breaking news. It’s a phrase that’s surrounded the organization since the late 1990’s, when the first incarnation of the Tim DuncanDavid Robinson teams arose. So, once again, let’s praise the opposite end of the court.

The Spurs shut down the Hornets, letting them shoot just 36.9 percent from the floor for 86 points. They allowed just four 3-pointers on 25 attempts as well, keeping Kemba Walker and five of the six bench players that attempted an outside shot under control.

Walker was the only player to do any damage, shooting 8-for-12 for 18 points. Outside of him, no other player made more than five shots from the floor. That included just 1-for-7 from Nicolas Batum and 1-for-8 from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

KYLE STEAL + SLAM!

For every fast break point we score this season, Brake Check will donate $20 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio. pic.twitter.com/lQoIQQsbFI

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 26, 2017

Following this game, San Antonio secured its spot as the No. 3 team in the NBA in Opponent Point (98.1). Only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics remain ahead of them. The Silver and Black are allowing opponents to shoot 45.4 percent — around the middle of the pack. It’s a number that can potentially be improved on as the season progresses.

However, it’s difficult to be disappointed with anything this team has done on defense. Especially as Kawhi Leonard, arguably the best defender in the NBA, remains injured. When he returns, how much better will they become?

Next: Players stepping up

CHARLOTTE, USA – NOVEMBER 25: Nicolas Batum (5) of Charlotte Hornets jumps for the ball during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, United States on November 25, 2017. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, USA – NOVEMBER 25: Nicolas Batum (5) of Charlotte Hornets jumps for the ball during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, United States on November 25, 2017. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

1. A glimpse of other players stepping up

With Leonard out, the pressure was placed on Aldridge in every game this season, and he performed adequately in all of them. So, it’s impossible to be disappointed in his play, in what has been a bounce-back campaign.

Aside from the five-time All-Star, finding a clear-cut, No. 2 scorer has proven difficult. No one consistently rose to the occasion, as the next-best player behind Aldridge, which amplified the pressure.

This situation was somewhat different against the Hornets. Aldridge still tied for the team-high in scoring at 17 points, but others stepped up and led to him taking just 14 shots.

Kyle Anderson‘s emergence continued, as he added 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He’s not an alpha scorer, but this secondary role proved successful for him on Saturday evening.

.@KyleAnderson5 tonight…

14 points3 assists5 rebounds5 steals (career-high)

? https://t.co/BPo44Jd8O5

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 26, 2017

Pau Gasol was the other player to score 17 points. He only shot 5-for-14, but found ways to the free-throw line and added two 3-pointers.

As noted, with Gay’s performance, he stepped up and had one of his best games this month. His 15 points were the second-best number on the team and third-highest in the game.

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

These were just glimpses of how the Spurs can look, when it’s not all about Aldridge. Can it last, though? Right now, maybe not, based on the first quarter of the season. That’s not the worst thing, though, as Leonard’s impending return will push everyone to more comfortable roles.

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