The San Antonio Spurs took care of business in a 109-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday evening.
After splitting their first four games, the Spurs have broken out on a four-game winning streak on the back of consistently terrific performances from the All-NBA duo of shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Still, it takes a balanced team-effort to tackle the Western Conference nowadays, so the role players need to step up when called upon. Tonight, point guard Patty Mills answered the call to action.
The longest tenured Spur finished with a balanced stat line of 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with eight rebounds, seven assists and a block on the night. Mills posted a fantastic plus/minus of +24 on the night, proving his hyper efficiency on both ends of the ball. He’s not going to provide a huge defensive boost every night, but he can put it together in the right matchups.
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He’s not going to lock up the opponent’s best guard, but Patty knows how to operate in a team-based defense, so his value will grow as chemistry and defensive sets improve.
For years, Mills has provided an important boost off the San Antonio bench against the toughest of competition. The 30-year-old veteran found ways to attack the Pelicans despite his matchup against defensive pest Jrue Holiday, who finished with 29 points and eight assists for New Orleans.
Meanwhile, forward Dante Cunningham decided to show out against his former team with 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in a season-high 38 minutes. While Cunningham generally plays a limited role on the offense, the 10-year veteran is prone to break out every once in a while.
Cunningham was crucial in limiting the league’s fiercest big man, Anthony Davis to just 17 points on 5-of-13 from the field. Not only did this tie his season-low in scoring, but it was his first game with single-digit rebounding thus far. Aldridge, whose sustained excellence has been slightly overshadowed by the emergence of DeRozan, played one of his best defensive games to date by forcing Davis out of his comfort zone in the mid-to-low post.
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His poise, maturity and sky-high basketball IQ were evident in the win. LaMarcus finished with a stuffed stat line of 22 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes of play. It’s no secret that Aldridge is the backbone of the San Antonio Spurs, so his ability to perform under pressure shouldn’t surprise fans in the slightest.
After a hot start from behind the arc in the first few games of the year, San Antonio has seemed to cool off. As a team, they finished the night shooting 34.8 percent on 23 attempts from deep. Mills and Cunningham combined for 7-of-10 shooting from deep while four other Spurs attempted threes to no avail.
New Orleans started off the season on a hot streak, winning their first four games by an average margin of 12 points, but have since lost five games in a row.
It wasn’t a perfect victory for the Spurs, who committed nine turnovers and 21 fouls in the contest. The season is still young, so there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks, but this unit has managed to do enough right to warrant the top spot in the Southwest Division.
There are gaps to fill and issues to address, but this was an important team victory for San Antonio. The Spurs earned a B+ for their win tonight, since team-defense has seemed to take a step in the right direction while key players continue to perform when called upon.
Next up, San Antonio will host the 2-6 Orlando Magic to close out a weekend back-to-back at the AT&T Center.