In this case, after San Antonio recorded its 13th victory at home, and NBA-best ninth win by 20 points or more, according to ESPN Stats and Information, the Spurs -- which expressed concerns earlier in the season about the offense -- seem to be finally jelling into what the brass envisioned before the start of the season.
“We played very well, but they had a tough night,” Popovich said of the Jazz, which had just played their fifth game in seven nights. “They were in an overtime game last night and [Rudy] Gobert is not there for them, which makes a big difference for them. We caught a break without any doubt. But you’ve still got to go play it, and I thought our focus was good.”
With the 37-point win, San Antonio now owns the highest margin of victory in the NBA this season; yes, even better than the Golden State Warriors, who have played one less game. Interestingly, the Spurs captured 11 victories last season by margins of 20 points or more but are already up to nine such wins this season.
“It’s always tough to have big leads in the NBA,” said Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who finished with 18 points as one of five of the team’s double-figure scorers. “We have been able to keep it at that the last two games. It’s not easy to win two games like that in a row. So it shows that our concentration was good tonight.”
Kawhi Leonard produced his second consecutive 22-point outing to lead the Spurs, who knocked down 44 straight free throws over their past two outings. But perhaps one of the more significant developments over San Antonio’s past two games: LaMarcus Aldridge finding a level of comfort in the system.
Over the past two games, Aldridge has connected on a combined 11 of 19 attempts for 31 points while contributing 14 rebounds.
Those numbers aren’t gaudy by any means, but Popovich likes what he has seen. Aldridge, who started the game 5-of-7 from the floor, made all six of his free throw attempts to finish the game with 18 points.
“He did a good job of getting to his spots,” Leonard said. “He got some offensive rebounds, made some layups, got a rhythm going and made some shots.”
Popovich said earlier in the season that Aldridge was “deferring” in an attempt to fit in with the new team, but it appears those days are coming to a close.
Now, “he’s getting his rhythm,” guard Danny Green said, adding that Aldridge “is getting more comfortable playing his game, doing his own thing and just getting settled in. That’s a good sign for us at this point in the season.”
“He had a lot of opportunities, and he took advantage of them,” Popovich said. “He’s a guy who’s getting used to this system more and more every game and feeling more and more comfortable. [He’s] not worrying about fitting in, not worrying about missing shots or anything like that. He’s just worrying about competing, and he’s doing a great job of it.”
Green pointed out back during the beginning of the season that he hoped the Spurs would hit full stride by the New Year.
“That’s a good timetable for us,” Green said. “Hopefully everybody will be clicking, and by [the] All-Star break, we want to be at the top of our game on both ends. Obviously, defensively, we’ve had more consistent nights than offense. But on offense, we’re settling in, moving the ball and guys are getting more acclimated and more comfortable with it and just feeling out the pace.”
So, in other words, the Spurs might be ahead of schedule.