Aldridge, Mills lead Spurs over Nets after Leonard shut down
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By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) The news about Kawhi Leonard was bad, though at least there's some consolation for the San Antonio Spurs.
The way LaMarcus Aldridge is playing, they might be able to hang on until their other star forward gets back.
Aldridge scored 34 points and the Spurs responded to the latest absence of Leonard by beating the Brooklyn Nets 100-95 on Wednesday night.
"L.A. is the reason we've kept a pretty good record and stayed in the hunt with so many injuries, in-and-outs, Kawhi and Tony (Parker) being gone so long," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's L.A. every night. Maybe somebody else will step up with him, but he's been a warrior for sure. We'd be in deep kimchi if he isn't playing the way he is."
The Spurs announced earlier Wednesday that Leonard would be out indefinitely so he can continue rehabilitating from the right thigh injury that forced him to miss the start of the season.
"We didn't feel he was ready. His confidence level wasn't there, so we decided to give it some more time," Popovich said.
"It was one of those things that we got told this morning and it was like, we can't do anything about it, we can't control it, so this is the group," Mills said. "We don't know how long he's going to be out for, but this is our group and we've got go and get the job done."
Mills combined with Aldridge on the most important moment of the game, a three-point play for Aldridge with 53 seconds remaining on a pass from the reserve guard after the Nets had cut a 17-point deficit to three.
Allen Crabbe scored 20 points and Joe Harris had 18 for the Nets, who lost their third straight.
"Obviously they get the ball to Aldridge and Gasol and then they obviously make plays to their shooters off the post-up actions, and Patty Mills had a great day today as well," Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said.
Mills went 5 for 5 off the bench in the first half, all 3-pointers, and finished with the most 3-pointers by a Spurs player this season.
Nets: Brooklyn has lost five straight at home. ... The Nets have dropped the last six meetings.
Leonard has played in just nine games after missing the beginning of the season because of right quadriceps tendinopathy. He also was sidelined briefly because of a shoulder injury. Popovich said Leonard hadn't sustained another injury, but also didn't seem confident in his ability to play at the level that had him finishing third in the voting for NBA MVP last season.
"He didn't reinjure it or anything but he was having pain, but not right after games, but maybe the next day at noon or that kind of thing and so the pain wasn't dissipating," Popovich said. "It wasn't going in the right direction, it was going the other way and you've got to be confident in your body to go out there and play at the level that he's expected to play."
POPOVICH ON ...
PLAYER ALTERCATIONS: "NBA fights are the silliest, namby-pambiest things I've ever seen in my life. Except there was that one in the stands a few years ago. That one got ugly."
RESPONDING TO REFEREES: "It evens out, it's just that we're all so prejudice it's ridiculous. We think we're the ones getting screwed all the time. So referees cannot win. I don't care what happens, they will never win. Everybody's always going to (complain) about them, so it's best to just play the game, don't cry about it and move on."
Dinwiddie shot 3 for 13 from the field and is 9 for 43 in the last three games.
Spurs: Visit Toronto on Friday night.
Nets: Host Miami on Friday night.
More AP basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Updated January 18, 2018