LaMarcus Aldridge Drops 56 Points; Spurs Beat Russell Westbrook, Thunder in 2OT

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 11, 2019

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 10: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs goes up for a dunk against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 10, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 56 points to go along with nine rebounds and four blocks as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 154-147 in double overtime on Thursday at AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Per Ben Golliver of the Washington Post, Aldridge's 56 points are third-most in Spurs history.

Derrick White added 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Spurs, and Marco Belinelli hit five first-half three-pointers en route to his 19 points.

The Spurs hit their first 14 three-pointers and didn't miss a shot from downtown until there was 4:55 left in the third quarter:

Per the Elias Sports Bureau (h/t Michael C. Wright of ESPN), the 25-18 Spurs' 14 made threes to start the game were the most by any team in the last 20 seasons. They finished 16-of-19 and won their sixth game in seven tries.

Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 24 assists and 13 rebounds for the 25-16 Thunder.

Paul George had a team-high 30 points, Jerami Grant scored a career-high 25 and Terrance Ferguson hit seven three-pointers for his 21 points. Steven Adams chipped in 19.

The Spurs were in control for most of the game and led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder crawled back, leading to a wild ending in regulation:

The two teams drew even in overtime, but the Spurs never trailed in the second extra session en route to one of the wildest games in recent NBA history. STATS explained just some of the reasons:

Thunder Quietly Developing Title-Caliber Supporting Cast

Oklahoma City could have three All-Stars in Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams, but the Thunder's performance proved the team has supporting cast members who can propel them to the NBA Finals.

First, Terrance Ferguson put on a show from deep following a 4-of-4 night from beyond the arc Tuesday. None of his shots were bigger than a game-tying three-pointer with 40.7 seconds remaining in regulation:

Royce Young of ESPN praised the pass, given that Westbrook had an opportunity for a three himself:

Westbrook's trust in Ferguson to knock down one of the game's most critical shots is a good sign for the second-year pro's immediate future. Although Ferguson hasn't had much of an offensive impact in his career, the 20-year-old may have experienced a breakthrough in recent days.

Second, Grant is developing into a Swiss army knife. Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer praised his defensive versatility:

While there wasn't much defense played in the Southwest shootout, the Thunder rank No. 1 in defensive efficiency thanks in part to Grant's efforts. He's also in the top 50 in defensive real plus-minus.

Fred Katz of The Athletic, who used to cover the Thunder, gave Grant an excellent compliment as well:

The energetic Grant scored 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting and added 12 rebounds and three blocks. He averaged 12.4 points on 52.4 percent shooting entering Thursday.

The most remarkable part of the Thunder's gutsy performance isn't about who was on the court. Rather, it's who the Thunder didn't have.

Shooting guard Andre Roberson is recovering from a small avulsion fracture in his left knee. He ranked second overall in defensive real plus-minus last season and first among guards. If he were on the floor Thursday, the Spurs would have been hard-pressed to make 14 straight threes.

Backup big man Nerlens Noel suffered a concussion Tuesday, and he too offers a strong defensive presence. He's ranked 10th in the league in defensive real plus-minus.

And yet the Thunder somehow almost won a game against a scorching-hot Spurs team that is 18-5 at home and just put forth one of the best offensive performances by any team this decade. The Thunder may not take solace in a moral victory, but the loss may foreshadow a successful spring.

         

Spurs' Bench Can Propel Them into Top 4 in West

Aldridge put on a clinic during his 56-point performance. His patented turnaround jumper was unstoppable, and he scored in the paint with ease.

But the Spurs wouldn't have won without a tremendous performance from their bench, which has been a catalyst for the team's run.

Belinelli was plus-17 after 24 minutes. Patty Mills and Davis Bertans combined for seven three-pointers and 26 more points. At one point, the Spurs bench was nearly outscoring the Thunder by themselves, per Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Belinelli was also the reason for one of the game's more ridiculous stats in a night full of them, per Spurs Basketball Communications Coordinator Jordan Howenstine:

Belinelli's ability to take over a game from three-point land is an excellent weapon off the bench, and Mills in particular has been fantastic. In his last six outings, the ex-St. Mary's star has averaged 13.0 points per outing.

And Bertans recently received positive remarks from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for his developing offensive game: "Absolutely, he's not just a three-point shooter," Popovich said per Jeff Garcia of Fox 29 San Antonio on Monday. "He can drive it; he's finding people after he drives it, which is a big sign of development for him."

The Spurs also got a bit deeper Thursday as Pau Gasol returned to the starting lineup, and that was without third-leading scorer Rudy Gay on the floor. The 32-year-old veteran is out with a sprained left wrist, but when he returns, he'll help create one of the league's deepest teams.

Even with Gay and Gasol missing games this year, the Spurs are tied for fifth in the Western Conference and just one game in back of the Thunder for third.

The Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets look like they'll hold the top two conference seeds, barring injuries or an unforeseen collapse, but a top-four ranking isn't out of the realm of possibility for the Spurs.

They won't be this hot every night, but the fact that numerous reserves are capable of lighting it up from deep breeds confidence heading into the regular season's second half.

                        

What's Next?

The teams will finish a home-and-home set Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.

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