LaMarcus Aldridge joined the 15,000 point club on Thursday night in San Antonio, reaching the career milestone in a gritty 97-90 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Aldridge led the Spurs in scoring with 23 points, settling further into a comfortable rhythm since returning from a minor heart arrhythmia. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the two teams are on track for a first round bear fight, based on current playoff projections.
“They’re physical,” said Patty Mills after the game. “They come out really aggressive defensively and offensively as well. I think it’s good preparation for us for the playoffs because that’s how everyone plays, but they maintain that physical play throughout the whole regular season. It’s up to us to be able to play through aggressive play.”
Prior to last night’s win, San Antonio had dropped two straight to the Grizzlies, both in their building. Memphis held the Spurs to an average of 85 points in the grindhouse, relying on their elite defense to claim a pair of victories. Despite constant double-teams to Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs limited their turnovers while sharing the ball to outlast the Grizzlies at home.
After stunning San Antonio in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, Memphis has been winless against the Spurs in the post-season. The Spurs swept the Grizzlies in 2013 on their way to the Finals, and again in 2016, before falling short in Oklahoma City.
Although a showdown with Memphis to open the playoffs wouldn’t be the most aesthetically pleasing series on the schedule, it could serve as the perfect primer for a deep post-season run. Should the two collide, it will be brother versus brother in a series where Pau Gasol should see quality minutes against younger brother Marc.
“I think they’re a very good defensive team,” the elder Gasol told assembled reporters. "They’re a physical team. They get into you. They use their hands. They make it hard so you have to be sharp. You have to be strong with the ball and make them pay sometimes for that aggressive. That’s kind of what we have to do and what we had to do tonight.”