NBA: Spurs soar in role players' star turn

The Spurs' power forward LaMarcus Aldridge being fouled by the Rockets' James Harden. Aldridge's 34 points lifted the Spurs to a decisive Game Six win, while Harden scored just 10 points.
The Spurs' power forward LaMarcus Aldridge being fouled by the Rockets' James Harden. Aldridge's 34 points lifted the Spurs to a decisive Game Six win, while Harden scored just 10 points.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

With Leonard and Parker out, support crew chips in to thrash Rockets and win series 4-2

HOUSTON • Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, made the announcement about two hours before the start of Game Six: "Kawhi is out."

The absence of Kawhi Leonard, one of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) top players, because of a sprained left ankle should have made a difference.

But these were still the same Spurs, with the same winning approach, the same winning confidence and the same winning attitude under Popovich.

On a night when the coach leaned on his supporting cast, the Spurs romped to a 114-75 rout on Thursday to eliminate the Houston Rockets 4-2 in the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Spurs will next face the Golden State Warriors, starting Sunday.

The Spurs were surgical against the Rockets. They moved the ball, played suffocating defence and had the Houston crowd booing the hometown team by half-time.

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    San Antonio Spurs assists in Game Six, versus 23.2 average in the first five with Kawhi Leonard in the line-up in the Western Conference semi-final series with Houston Rockets.

The game was an end-to-end thrashing.

"Everybody picked it up," Popovich said. "Four, five, six guys all had good games. It wasn't one guy scoring 40 or anything like that. Everybody contributed.

"It was a real team effort with 32 assists and just seven turnovers. They played well at the offensive ends with a lot of sets, and at the defensive end it was one of our best nights as far as scrambling around trying to keep up with these guys."

LaMarcus Aldridge had 34 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spurs, who will need more of the same from him against the Warriors, who have yet to lose a game in this season's play-offs.

The Spurs also got a major lift from Jonathon Simmons, a high-energy forward who moved into the starting line-up in Leonard's place.

He finished with 18 points, and also defended James Harden, who had a nightmare game to finish with 10 points and made just two of his 11 shots from the floor before he fouled out with 3min 15sec left.

Patty Mills chipped in 14 points and seven assists for San Antonio while Pau Gasol added 10 points and 11 boards.

Collectively, they also made up for the absence of Tony Parker, their starting point guard, whose season ended when he ruptured his left quadriceps tendon earlier in the series.

The Rockets were also missing a key player in reserve centre Nene Hilario, who suffered a torn adductor in Game Four. Without his physical presence, Aldridge went to work, scoring 10 points in the first quarter as the Spurs jumped to a 31-24 lead. San Antonio continued to sizzle, leading by as many as 42 points in the second half.

Trevor Ariza paced Houston with 20 points, and Clint Capela had 15 points and 12 boards. The Rockets' 75 points was the second-lowest in a game since Harden joined them in 2012.

"Everything falls on my shoulders," said Harden, who finished second in scoring during the regular season at 29.1 points per game behind Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook. "I take responsibility for it. Both ends of the floor."

NYTIMES, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs soar in role players' star turn'. Print Edition | Subscribe