LaMarcus Aldridge has arguably been the reason why the San Antonio Spurs are still alive in the playoff hunt. How has the all-star forward proven his worth this season?
When a team’s star player goes down, a coach will often use the phrase “Next man up”. This season for the Spurs, that can be summed up by one player: LaMarcus Aldridge. With all-star forward Kawhi Leonard limited to only nine games this year because of a quadriceps injury, Aldridge has quickly become the team’s main player. The former Trailblazer has gone from being almost traded on draft night to a player the San Antonio Spurs cannot live without this season.
After only averaging 17.3 points per game last season, Aldridge’s numbers have increased in almost every statistic. This season he is averaging 22.7 per game while shooting 50.2 percent and is also averaging 8.4 rebounds per game. He leads the Spurs in points and rebounds per game.
Before the season began in October, Aldridge signed a three-year, $72 million contract extension with the team, causing many Spurs fans to scratch their heads. This was especially questioned after coming off of a disappointing performance in last year’s playoffs. Aldridge averaged just 16.5 points a game and seemingly disappeared in the Western Conference Finals against Golden State after Leonard went down with an injury.
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However, this season Aldridge has taken over for Leonard in his absence. He earned his sixth all-star appearance and has been keeping San Antonio afloat in the tight Western Conference playoff race. After being held out against the Rockets on March 12th, Aldridge has averaged 30.3 points per game during the Spurs’ four-game winning streak. His best came against the Minnesota Timberwolves where he finished with 39 points on 14-22 shooting.
Monday night’s win over the Warriors showed just how important Aldridge is to this team. With Golden State minus Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and eventually Draymond Green, San Antonio grabbed the early lead and at one point led by 16. However, as they have done often this season, the Spurs squandered their lead and trailed 63-62 heading into the fourth quarter. With Aldridge resting for the majority of the third period, San Antonio scored just 12 points, tying their season-low for points in a quarter. When Aldridge checked back in, everything changed.
— NBA (@NBA) March 20, 2018
Aldridge single-handedly helped his team seize the momentum back; backing down defenders in the post and scoring at will. After having a quiet 17 points in the first three quarters, Aldridge scored 11 consecutive and had 19 in the fourth, ending with 33 for the game. Without him, San Antonio more than likely does not win that game.
Every game is critical for the Spurs down the stretch as the playoffs draw closer. San Antonio will be looking for Aldridge to continue his dominance and keep their winning streak alive when they host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at 8:30 P.M. CST.