SAN ANTONIO -- Upbeat, smiling and even cracking jokes an hour and 45 minutes before tipoff against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich apparently had turned amnesiac comic after his team’s 120-90 debacle two days prior at Golden State.
“Who did we play?” Popovich joked. “It was really tough. I had to go to everybody’s house. I slept overnight at about four or five players' houses just to try to get them straight.”
Perhaps Popovich made light of the situation, knowing he’d be able to laugh it off later, after the Spurs blasted the Rockets 130-99 to spring back from Monday’s defeat in resounding fashion.
After all, the team’s loss to the Warriors on Monday marked its ninth defeat by a margin of 30 points or more in Popovich’s tenure as head coach. The Spurs are now 8-0 in games immediately following such disastrous losses, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“I always say, after you get beat up pretty good, you learn a lot from those mistakes,” guard Danny Green said. “They beat us up pretty good.”
Then the Spurs passed on the beatdown to the Rockets.
Coming off a game in which the Warriors limited him to a season-low five points on 2-of-9 shooting, four-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge deleted his Twitter and Instagram pages, then morphed into an image on the court the Rockets no longer wanted to see by the end of the night. Aldridge reeled off a game-high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. The performance goes down as Aldridge’s third outing this season in which he scored 25 points or more while contributing 10 rebounds. Aldridge put together 18 such games last season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I wanted to be better than I was last game,” Aldridge said. “I wanted to have a better rhythm, try to put my stamp on the game. I was trying to be more in-tuned to the game for sure. I was more myself, took my time, made the reads, didn’t let the double-teams or them bluffing me speed me up tonight. It was important for us to just be ourselves again playing defense, being active and trying to hold teams to taking tough shots and not giving up so much easy stuff. Tonight, I thought the guys did that.”
Added Popovich: “He was very aggressive. He did a fine job at both ends of the court.”
The Spurs congregated earlier in the day at the team’s facilities to watch film of the loss to the Warriors. Green, who knocked down 6-of-8 from 3-point range in scoring 18 points against the Rockets, said “it wasn’t easy” to digest the session.
“Guys wanted to come out there and kind of do it on their own,” Green said. “There were times and moments where we weren’t moving the ball like we normally do. We weren’t attacking or playing Spurs basketball. And you could tell because each guy, as they would make more baskets and we’d get down more in the hole, each guy would try to take it upon himself instead of just getting back to it. I think watching the film we have to kind of trust in each other. I think tonight we did that; moving the ball and finding the great shot instead of the good ones.”
The numbers indicated as much. The Spurs committed six transition turnovers against Golden State, compared with two against the Rockets. Tony Parker scored 11 of his 15 points in transition.
The Spurs shot 55.6 percent against the Rockets after hitting 41.9 percent in the loss to the Warriors. San Antonio saw Golden State hit 51.8 percent from the field but limited Houston to 38.4 percent; the rebound differential between the past two games went from minus-7 to plus-9.
San Antonio committed 25 turnovers against the Warriors compared to 13 against the Rockets.
Forward Kawhi Leonard (18 points, a plus/minus of plus-24) called the difference in the performances “just execution, people not being in their right spots or just making lazy passes; also the opponent's defense.”
“I knew guys would come in more locked in,” Aldridge said. “I think everybody definitely felt bad after the last game and knew that wasn’t us. I take every game personal and everybody definitely felt like that wasn’t us. So it’s behind us now. I lived and learned from it for sure.”