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Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge: 'Tonight, I was myself'

SAN ANTONIO -- Time off the court proved beneficial on it for San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

Having missed the past two games due to a sprained left ankle, Aldridge returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night and contributed 18 points, while Kawhi Leonard racked up a game-high 26 in an 88-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

“I felt fresh. My body felt good,” Aldridge said. “I gained energy, fresh legs. Watching the games, I learned my spots a little bit better. So I gained. I didn’t lose anything. I think it’s just about playing every game, and just being more comfortable out there. I think I’m getting more comfortable every game. Tonight, I was myself. I think it’s a process for me. I think tonight I felt better out there.”

Aldridge made that apparent on San Antonio’s first possession of the game when he nailed an 18-foot jumper off a Tony Parker assist. Aldridge shot 47 percent from the field on the night, in addition to pulling down seven rebounds and blocking one shot.

“He did well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s starting to feel comfortable with what we’re doing.”

Most of the Spurs believe Aldridge hasn’t yet reached full potential in the offense.

“I don’t think he’s playing his best basketball yet. It’s still early in the season, and he’s still trying to get into a flow and learn our plays,” Leonard said. “I feel like he’s gonna get better.”

San Antonio’s starters provided a quick glimpse early on Wednesday night for why pundits continue to keep the Spurs in the championship conversation. The team put its trademark ball movement on offense on display in the first quarter, with seven assists on its first nine buckets, including six straight assisted baskets to start the game.

But San Antonio failed to maintain that productivity on offense, and relied on defense to pull out the victory.

By limiting the Mavericks to 83 points, the Spurs held an opponent to fewer than 90 points for the ninth time this season. The team is 9-0 under those circumstances.

“We just missed shots. That’s gonna happen,” said Parker, who finished with 16 points and eight assists. “Defensively, that’s where we won the game. If the shot’s not gonna fall, we have to play good defense. Holding Dallas to 83 points is pretty good."

While San Antonio continues to make gradual strides implementing Aldridge with the returners, Popovich called the team’s offense “rickety.”

“It’s not very rhythmic or consistent, but we’re playing hard on defense, and it’s what’s keeping us in games,” Popovich said.

Leonard is doing his part, too. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Leonard contributed eight rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals. Dallas pulled to within one point with 33.9 seconds remaining on a Devin Harris 23-footer.

But on the next trip down, Leonard put the game away with a 3-pointer from 24 feet out with 15.1 seconds remaining.

“He’s coming into his own,” Popovich said. “He’s feeling comfortable being the guy to take shots. We put him in those positions, and he’s performing wonderfully.”

Leonard said San Antonio’s “type of offense usually puts everybody in a good situation.”

But it’s up to the player to capitalize.

“Tonight, I got a chance to make some shots for my team to win the game, and that’s what happened,” Leonard said.

San Antonio (12-3) hits the road on Friday to face the Denver Nuggets.