Associated Press

Aldridge’s double-double helps Spurs rout Suns 112-79

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 12 rebounds and the Spurs routed the Phoenix Suns 112-79 on Wednesday night for their 19th straight home win to start the season.

San Antonio successfully rang out an eventful 2015 that saw them add Aldridge in free agency after being bounced from the opening round of the playoffs and open the season with a franchise record home winning streak.

The Spurs also extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 28 straight games dating to last season by holding the Suns to several season lows.

Phoenix, which has lost six straight, had season lows for total points, first-half points (33) and points in the opening quarter (12).

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points, Manu Ginobili added 13 and Tony Parker had 12 points and seven assists for San Antonio (28-6).

Tim Duncan missed his third straight game due to right knee soreness, but he wasn’t needed in a game where Aldridge, Leonard and Parker all sat out the fourth quarter.

San Antonio led by as many as 38 points and never trailed after Phoenix scored the opening basket. The Spurs shut down the Suns’ defensively while exploiting them offensively in their second game since losing Eric Bledsoe to a season-ending knee injury.

Leonard did not have a field attempt in the first 8 minutes of the game as the Spurs instead took advantage of mismatches for Aldridge and David West. In those opening 8 minutes Aldridge had eight points and West had two points and three rebounds. It resulted in two early fouls each Alex Len and Jon Leuer each had two early fouls, forcing Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to go to his bench in the first four minutes.

At other times San Antonio had Phoenix fruitlessly chasing the ball.

Aldridge handed the ball off to West, who tossed the ball cross court to Danny Green. Green drove to the paint from the 3-point line and tossed the ball back to West, who flipped the ball back to Leonard for a corner 3-pointer for a 48-20 lead.

On another possession Boris Diaw lobbed an entry pass to Leonard, who tossed a bounce pass to Aldridge who scored an open layup after throwing Mirza Teletovic off balance by faking an outlet pass.

San Antonio finished with 26 assists and did not commit its first turnover until 2 minutes into the second quarter and finished with 13.

TIP-INS

Suns: Phoenix’s previous low for points in a quarter was 14 on Nov. 6 against Detroit.

Spurs: The Spurs’ 19 straight home wins is the third best start in Western Conference history, trailing the 20 wins by the 1986 Houston Rockets and 26 consecutive by the 1978 Portland Trail Blazers. … The Suns’ 12-point first quarter matched the season low for a Spurs’ opponent set by Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

 

Chris Paul posts emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant

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Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant were tight.

The shocking death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash — hit CP3 hard and the point guard missed his first game of the year Monday, sitting out as he tried to come to grips with it all. Kobe and Paul won Gold Medals together, their kids were friends, and they competed fiercely against each other on the court. 

Tuesday night, Paul posted this personal tribute to Kobe.

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I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully process it. My parents have always said everything happens for a reason and its in God’s plan. But this one is different. Broken fingers, torn Achilles, it didn’t matter. You overcame it all!! You were DIFFERENT! Sometimes we competed so hard against each other that you could never tell how I was always watching YOU!! I needed to see how much better I needed to get and how much harder I needed to work! The love you had for the game was nowhere near the love you had for YOUR girls!! All 5 of them!! And Gigi, who we had already prearranged her marriage with lil Chris, is as beautiful and feisty as she could ever be!!! As I’ve watched you in retirement, as happy as you’ve ever been, I’ve sat back and prayed and hoped that my baby girl will look at me the way Gigi looks at you!!! I Love You and will miss you with all my heart my brother!!! All my love to Vanessa and all the families during this time 🙏🏾 #Mamba4Life #Mambacita

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Like Paul, a lot of us are struggling to process it all.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.