The San Antonio Spurs boosted their bid for a 21st consecutive NBA post-season appearance with an 89-75 victory over the injury ravaged Golden State Warriors on Monday.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Spurs, who have battled injury troubles of their own this season.
Patty Mills added 12 points and Danny Green chipped in 11 for the Spurs, who have won four straight to put themselves back in the playoff mix.
“We’ve been playing with passion and hunger,” Australia’s Mills said. “We just have to sustain it.”
The Spurs had no sympathy for the injury woes of the reigning champion Warriors, who arrived in San Antonino without injured All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
And there was more trouble to come as Draymond Green left in the first half with a bruised pelvis.
Nevertheless, the Warriors erased a 16-point deficit, taking a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter before the Spurs regained control.
“We had some letdown, and those guys are smart,” Aldridge said. “It felt good to get it going in the fourth quarter.”
Quinn Cook scored 20 points to lead Golden State, who have lost four of their last six and trail Western Conference leaders Houston by 3 1/2 games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who have played the Warriors in the last three NBA Finals, welcomed Kevin Love back to action with a 124-117 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Cavs superstar LeBron James was the real difference maker, notching his 16th triple-double of the season to put an upbeat ending on a day in which Cleveland announced that head coach Tyronn Lue would take some time off to deal with health concerns.
“If it’s not one thing it’s another, that was my reaction,” James said of learning Lue would be away on the same day that Love was cleared to return for the first time since breaking his left hand on January 30.
James scored 17 of his 40 points in the third quarter as the Cavaliers took control.
He added 12 rebounds and 10 assists – the 71st triple-double of his career – as Cleveland won for the third time in their last four games.
Love, a five-time All-Star, scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
“First of all just having another body is great for our team,” said James, whose Cavs have also battled injury troubles. “And just his basketball IQ, his familiarity with our system – he just fits right back in. It was great to have him back.”
Two-time All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks, posting his 23rd 30-point game of the season with 37 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Cleveland maintained their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference. The Indiana Pacers were just half a game behind them after a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Trailing by two points at halftime, the Pacers out-scored the Lakers by 14 points in the third quarter to snap a two-game skid and strengthen their position in the tightly bunched East.
Simmons ‘something unique’
In Philadelphia, Australian rookie Ben Simmons produced his ninth triple-double of the season as the 76ers beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-94.
Simmons scored 11 points with 12 rebounds and 15 assists – all without a single turnover.
His 19th game with 10 or more assists saw him pass Hall of Famer Allen Iverson’s franchise rookie record.
“He was great tonight, he really was something unique,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown.
“That was probably the easiest triple-double I’ve had because my teammates were hot,” Simmons said. “I’m just going to find my guy, set a screen, he’s wide-open.
“So the reason it seems easy for me is because they make it easy for me.”
Joel Embiid scored a game-high 25 points and tied his career high with 19 rebounds for Philadelphia, who are in sixth place in the East – just half a game behind the Washington Wizards and a game behind the Pacers.
The Miami Heat moved into seventh place in the East with a 149-141 double-overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.