San Antonio are heading to the Western Conference finals for the 13th time thanks to a player who has never been there before.
The Spurs eliminated the sluggish James Harden and the Houston Rockets with a 114-75 victory in Game Six on Thursday, behind a season-high 34 points from LaMarcus Aldridge. They didn’t even need the services of absent All-Star Kawhi Leonard.
Aldridge, who is in his 11th season and second in San Antonio, had failed to get out of the second round in his previous six post-season trips. He added 12 rebounds to pick up the scoring slack after Leonard rolled his ankle in San Antonio’s overtime victory in Game Five on Tuesday.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 12, 2017
Coach Gregg Popovich said: “He’s really turned it on; demanded the ball, got in good position. He was wonderful on the boards and of course he passes it really, really well and gets it moving for us.”
Aldridge became the first Spur to score 34 points with 12 rebounds in a playoff game since Tim Duncan against Phoenix in 2008.
“I just touched it a little bit more tonight so I had a chance to figure it out,” Aldridge said.
“I was trying to be more dominant down there. So I was willing to take some contested shots tonight and I got into my rhythm early and after that I was good to go.”
The Spurs led by 19 at half-time and didn’t let up to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2014. The 4-2 series win sends them to the conference finals against the Golden State Warriors.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) May 12, 2017
Trevor Ariza led for Houston with 20 points on a night when MVP hopeful Harden capped his stellar season by tying a season low with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting before fouling out with 3:15 left.
A somber Harden was clear about who was to blame for the loss.
“Everything falls on my shoulders,” he said. “I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor. It’s tough, especially the way we lost at home for Game Six. But it happened and we move forward.”
Jonathon Simmons filled in nicely for Leonard, scoring 18 points and hounding the Rockets defence.
San Antonio were up by 23 after the third quarter and scored the first seven points of the fourth to make it 94-64 and send many of the home fans streaming to the exits.
Houston relied on their three-point shooting to get this far, but they couldn’t make shots from long-range after only converting 13 of 40. The Rockets had trouble scoring in general, making just 28.6 percent (22 of 77) of their shots overall.
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2017
Spurs: Danny Green got a technical in the third quarter for a scuffle with Ariza. Patty Mills had 14 points and seven assists, and Pau Gasol added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Rockets: Ariza received a technical in the third for the scuffle with Ariza. Coach Mike D’Antoni added Sam Dekker to the rotation after being criticized for not adding anyone to the rotation on Tuesday in the first game since Nene suffered a season-ending thigh injury. Dekker had six points, while Clint Capela finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Spurs held the Rockets to less than 100 points for the third time in this series after they been limited to less than 100 points just five times in the regular season. The 75 points scored by Houston was a season low and the fewest points the franchise had scored in a playoff game since managing just 70 against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.
Game One of the conference finals is on Sunday at Golden State.