Aldridge takes over, leads San Antonio to the Western Conference Finals

USA Today
USA Today

Thanks to a dominant performance from the beginning of the game, the San Antonio Spurs destroyed the Houston Rockets (114-75) on the road and advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they will face the Golden State Warriors.

Even though they were forced to play without Kawhi Leonard, who was injured in Game 5, Gregg Popovich’s players immediately took control of the match and never looked back, with LaMarcus Aldridge being unstoppable (season-high 34 points, along with 12 rebounds).

Playing very well offensively, San Antonio had a seven-point advantage at the end of the first quarter (31-24) and continued that way in the second one. Improving their defensive performance, the visitors conceded only 18 points to extend their lead to 19 (61-42), after 20 minutes in the game.

What was obvious in the second half was the Spurs’ intention to not let the Rockets make an impressive come-back.

They kept on playing at high standards and not only did they retain their impressive lead (71-43, 94-64), but also played excellent on both ends of the floor to simply decimate their opponents (114-75) and qualify to the Conference Finals, for the first time since 2014.

Apart from Aldridge, who was the squad’s best player, Popovich saw Pau Gasol (10 points, 11 boards, five assists, three blocks) be equally impressive inside the paint.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 12, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) looks on against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Concurrently, Patty Mills (14 points, seven assists) and Jonathan Simmons, who replaced Leonard and played very well, both defensively and offensively (18 points), made San Antonio’s back-court line very effective as well.

On the other hand, the Rockets made their worst performance in the season and, consequently, were eliminated.

Shooting the ball very badly during the entire game (9/37 in two-pointers, 13/40 from beyond the arc), Houston couldn’t turn things around and failed to reach the conference Finals for a second time in three years.

Except for Trevor Ariza, who had 20 points and five three-pointers, and Clint Capella (15 points, 12 rebounds), no other member of the team made a decent performance, while MVP candidate, James Harden, couldn’t make the difference for Houston and ended the game with just 10 points (on 2 of 11 shooting, seven assists, six turnovers), playing very badly, especially offensively.

 

*Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors will take place on Sunday evening.