The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO–The Spurs are without their two main leaders from last season but they are not lacking in direction.
Resurgent forward LaMarcus Aldridge and second-year player Dejounte Murray continue to lead the way as San Antonio remained unbeaten by fighting past Toronto.
Aldridge had 20 points while Murray added 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Spurs held on to beat the Raptors 101-97 last night.
“Just an overall good win against a really well-coached, disciplined team that has a lot of expectations,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
“It’s good for our confidence since we’re trying to put some things together.”
The Spurs are missing leading scorer Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, who both are rehabilitating from quadriceps injury.
San Antonio has struggled to find an offensive flow without their veterans, but Murray is trying to step into the void in just his second season.
“I just want to win,” Murray said. “I got that winning in my [inside] and in my DNA.
“I just do anything to win,” he added. “If I don’t score a point, I’m going to go rebound. If I don’t rebound, I’m going to try facilitate or I’m going to try to play defence.
“That’s the thing that you’ve got to have.”
San Antonio needed that grit from the 21-year-old point guard in slugging through a physical game.
Both teams were assessed 20-plus fouls, and Aldridge and Serge Ibaka received technical fouls after an altercation with 3:36 to go.
The two got tangled battling for position under the rim when Ibaka threw an elbow into Aldridge’s midsection.
Aldridge would push Ibaka before the two were separated.
Murray showed his growing comfort with a leadership role by taking Aldridge aside.
“I just told him, ‘You’re on another level, don’t worry about that, keep playing your game,'” Murray noted.
“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about that. Let’s move on, let’s win this game.'”
Aldridge responded minutes later by drawing a sixth foul on Ibaka.
He shouted in celebration and glared at a fallen Ibaka after driving to the basket and scoring on a lay-up to give San Antonio a 97-87 lead.
“It just kind of woke me up a little bit,” Aldridge said. “It got the team awakened.
“Guys just kind of picked it up.”
The Spurs were able to overcome a season-high 20 turnovers.
Toronto took advantage, keeping the game close despite being out-rebounded 55-33 as it played without injured centre Jonas Valanciunas.
“We played great defence, but we’ve got to realize with that don’t let it go to waste by giving up offensive rebounds to the team,” DeMar DeRozan said.
“That’s something we definitely can take from [this game].”