With roughly 12 games left for every team, the end of the NBA season is quickly approaching. Only two games separate the fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder from the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz in the Western Conference. Former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge finds his San Antonio Spurs stuck right in the middle of this fight.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference has also picked up in competition. The third-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers lead the fifth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers by only 1.5 games. The Indiana Pacers are also stuck in their own fight, with former Longhorn Myles Turner still struggling to find consistent minutes late into the season.
The Spurs fell out of the playoff picture for a quick second, but recovered following the return of all-star forward Aldridge. San Antonio has won four games in a row by an average of 18 points, with wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and the depleted Golden State Warriors.
Aldridge has averaged 30.3 points, nine rebounds, 1.3 blocks and only 1.3 turnovers while shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 88.5 percent from the free throw line over the four-game stretch. In the Spurs’ game against Golden State on Monday, Aldridge single-handedly outscored the Warriors, 19-12, in the
San Antonio desperately needs Aldridge to continue playing at this level if they hope to win 50 games this season. The Spurs have won 50 or more games in each of the past 20 seasons, the longest such record in the NBA. They play at home against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.
Turner has been fantastic when he’s managed to stay on the court consistently. The young center collected 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 30 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night. Turner scored the first seven points for the Pacers, each of which showcased a different offensive talent. He hit a soft runner in the lane coming off a roll to the basket to start the night, a 3-pointer off of a pick-and-pop and two free throws after getting fouled driving to the basket. He kept producing all night, eventually helping the Pacers outscore the Lakers, 35-21, in the third quarter to close out the game.
However, Turner has continued to struggle to stay healthy this season. He has missed 17 games this year and has played limited minutes in roughly another dozen games. He played just 20 minutes and scored two points in last Thursday evening’s loss to the Raptors and was sidelined during the Saturday loss to the Wizards with a sprained ankle.
While the Pacers have definitely overachieved as a team this season, they will need a healthy Turner if they hope to stay competitive through the end of the season and into the playoffs. The Pacers will play on the road against the Pelicans on Wednesday evening.