By The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 32 points and Patty Mills also hit a season high with 19 to lead the San Antonio Spurs past the increasingly desperate Dallas Mavericks 97-91 on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
The Spurs (9-5), still playing without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, took a 34-31 lead with about eight minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to hold on the rest of the way, mostly by putting the clamps on Dallas’ already struggling offense.
“His comfort level, his confidence is good. He’s in a good spot right now,” Mills said of Aldridge, who scored 13 in the fourth quarter. “We try to let him do his thing and, as a team, mold around him.”
The Mavs, who dropped to 2-13, shot below 35 percent for most of the game and finished just 10 of 34 from beyond the 3-point arc. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. led Dallas with his own season high of 27 points thanks to a late surge, and Harris Barnes had 16. But the pair combined to go just 15 of 39 from the floor.
Smith Jr. became the youngest player in Mavs history with at least 25 points and five rebounds in a game. He grabbed six, but he was more concerned with getting an elusive win.
“We’ve got to get something that translates to wins,” Smith Jr. said. “Whether it’s 27 or seven, we’ve got to get some wins.”
Yet even after falling behind by 11 in the third quarter, they still were far from out of it thanks to the Spurs’ own shooting struggles. They finished at 44.3 percent and went 6 of 26 from 3-point land.
With J.J. Barea scoring eight of his 16 points in consecutive fashion in the third quarter, the Mavs crept within 62-60 at the end of three. Wesley Matthews had a chance to tie it at 62 to start the fourth, but his second free throw wouldn’t drop and that was the closest the Mavs got.
A Mills 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, sparked a Spurs run that led to an 82-71 margin with 5:03 to go. No one Dallas threw at Aldridge could contain him. He hit 12 of 21 field goals and was shooting 53 percent through three quarters.
“Everything is good. I am definitely more confident. I’m playing my game more this year,” Aldridge said. “Pop has definitely tweaked some things so I can be myself out there more, be more confident, and it’s working out for us.”
Barnes, a smaller forward tasked with guarding Aldridge for much of the game, acknowledged what a challenge it was.
“It’s tough. Every time down in (the paint), he is going to play a physical game,” Barnes said. “You got to stay out of foul trouble guarding him, but I thought we did the best job we could mixing it up with different matchups.”
The Spurs have now won five in a row and nine of the last 11 meetings in Dallas.
Manu Ginobili came off the bench to score 13 points for San Antonio and Dejounte Murray had 10.
Dallas had five players score in double figures, but only Dirk Nowitzki, who wore a sleeve on his right knee after experiencing swelling following Saturday’s game, had an efficient night with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Dallas’ slow start has them searching the market for help.
“I think we’re pursuing anything and everything out there,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, whose team is now 0-10 when trailing after the first quarter. “2-13, pretty sure we’re not standing pat.”