SAN ANTONIO -- With Kawhi Leonard out because of an upper respiratory infection, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich predicted before his team's matchup against Philadelphia that the forward's replacement, Kyle Anderson, would "probably look good one minute, and the next minute he'll look atrocious."
"I thought Kyle was really special in a lot of ways," Popovich said after the game. "He makes everybody on the court better. He makes great decisions. He is getting confident with his shot. He works hard on defense. He is just a fine young player."
Anderson played 31 minutes filling in for Leonard in the starting lineup, and made 4-of-9 shots and both of his 3-pointers, in addition to pulling down seven rebounds and dishing three assists.
One of those assists came on a long pass the length of the court with 2:09 left as the Spurs held an 87-83 lead. Patty Mills forced a turnover with Anderson snagging the loose ball. Anderson fired the ball the length of the court to Mills, who laid it in to put the game away.
"He had to pick it up because Kawhi was sick," Tony Parker said, "and I think he played well."
All but one starter (Danny Green) scored in double figures, with David West coming off the bench to chip in 10 points. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 17 points, followed by Parker (16), and Tim Duncan (15).
"He was great. He's a big-time player," said Aldridge, who finished with a season-high 19 rebounds. "I thought he played perfect; passed the ball, made shots and played good D for us."
A second-year player making his first start of the season, Anderson, coming off earning MVP of the NBA summer league, started eight games during the 2014-15 season and could prove to be a worthy contributor in what appears to be a deep San Antonio bench. In addition to Leonard, the Spurs took the court without Manu Ginobili (adductor strain).
"I just want to keep building on that, really; keep the rhythm going, get out there, rebound, play some D. Those were the first things on my mind," Anderson said.
Having played primarily at point guard at UCLA, Anderson said the skills learned at that position have served him well thus far in the NBA.
"I think that always stays with me; keeping my head up, making good decisions, making good passes," Anderson said. "That's always stayed with me. I'm a little rusty though."
Added Popovich: "He's gotten some time off and on during the season. In a situation like this where a couple guys are out, it's good for him to be able to go out there and do some things."