Longhorns in the NBA: Durant, Tucker enjoy post-All-Star success; Aldridge struggles to stay on the court

Abhishek Mukund

With the closing of the All-Star break, the NBA season is rushing to an end with most teams having played 62 out of 82 games. The final stretch is especially important in the hotly-contested Western Conference since only two games separate the third-place Portland Trailblazers from the eighth-place
Denver Nuggets. 

Two players who won’t have to worry about not making the playoffs are Houston Rockets small forward P.J. Tucker and Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant. The Rockets are currently first in the West with a half-game advantage over the Warriors. The two teams have a 12-plus game advantage over
the Trailblazers. 

P.J. Tucker

While he may not be a star, the reliability off the bench from Tucker has helped the Rockets attain the No. 1 seed in the West. Houston has won a league-best 15 games in a row, tied for the second-longest winning streak in team history. The Rockets’ last loss came on Jan. 26 to the
New Orleans Pelicans. 

Tucker’s stats have been solid for a role player during the winning streak, with averages of 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists. Yet the most impressive part of Tucker’s play during the streak has been his ability to shoot 40 percent from the three. This bodes well for the Rockets, who take a league-leading 42.1
threes per game. 

Houston will look to extend its winning streak on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Kevin Durant

Durant has continued his fantastic play post-All-Star break, averaging 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Durant is shooting 55.9 percent from the floor and 52.3 percent from three. The Warriors have not lost since the All-Star break, winning each of the five games by an average
of 13.2 points.

Durant’s stellar defense has held up as he continues to build a case for Defensive Player of the Year. His 1.2 blocks per game since the All-Star break leads his team. The Warriors will try to keep the winning streak alive and catch the Rockets when they play the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. 

LaMarcus Aldridge

The San Antonio Spurs find themselves in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Having lost three out of their last four games, the Spurs have struggled to find a consistent, healthy lineup to put on the floor. As a result, they currently hold the sixth seed in the West.

Aldridge was recently diagnosed with a sprained ankle, which he sustained during the loss to the New Orleans Pelicans last Wednesday. Aldridge played 13 minutes in the game before being held out with the injury. He did not play in the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. He was listed as questionable against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. 

The Spurs will have a tough time holding onto a playoff spot, with two games against the Warriors, two against the Rockets and two against the Thunder in the next few weeks.