For the game recap, click here.
By Sarah Cilea
Kawhi Leonard | A
In a rare occurrence, Kawhi failed to log a single steal or block. But he had an almost sneaky good performance on offense. Despite drawing double-teams consistently, Leonard scored an efficient 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (2-of-2 from three) with six rebounds and two assists. He telegraphed a few passes out of the double in the second half, but the more practice he gets in those situations during the regular season, the better.
LaMarcus Aldridge | A
LaMarcus Aldridge was huge. He got a nice boost from an early stint with Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, David West and Danny Green, scoring eight points in a row from 3:37 to the 2:06 mark of the first quarter via some nice ball movement. After that, he was in All-Star form, scoring 11 of the Spurs’ 36 points in a game-changing third quarter. He finished with a game high 24 points (10-of-16, 4-of-4 FT), nine rebounds,and two steals. As Tom Orsborn of the SA Express-News pointed out on Twitter, this and Wednesday’s game vs the Suns mark the first consecutive 20-point outings of the season for Aldridge.
A barrage of injuries, losses, and exhausting overtime games has made the harsh cold of December brutal and seemingly never-ending for the San Antonio Spurs. But Sunday night’s surprising return of Patty Mills and a potentially stabilizing 110-106 victory over the Houston Rockets offers some respite for the weary defending champions.
Mills was shaky in his return, as could be expected after months removed from the basketball court following offseason shoulder surgery. A bevy of missed shots (0-4 from three-point territory) and turnovers (five) did little to dissuade his teammates’ enthusiasm for the hyperactive point guard’s return.
“His energy, just his activity was contagious. It brought a huge spark to the team,” Tim Duncan said. “Even he’ll say he didn’t play the greatest, but he made such a huge impact just being back out there.”
The Spurs confidence in Mills paid off down the stretch, with Mills scoring eight points and pressuring James Harden into a decisive turnover in the closing minute while playing almost the entirety of the fourth quarter.
“[It was rough] with the grind that the guys were going through, coming into the locker room knowing that they were tired and that there weren’t that many subs to give them a break,” Mills said. “It was disappointing thing for me because I felt helpless.”
Mills returned to a standing ovation from the San Antonio crowd, infusing the AT&T Center with energy. But perhaps his greatest contribution was some measure of a return to normalcy.