By RAUL DOMINGUEZ , Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs relied on LaMarcus Aldridge until they were able to put things together against a sneaky zone defense from the Brooklyn Nets.
Leaning on Aldridge has worked out pretty well this season.
Derrick White scored a career-high 26 points, Aldridge had 20 and the Spurs rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Brooklyn 117-114 on Thursday night, their 16th straight win at home over the Nets.
White added six assists, including four in the second half as San Antonio improved to 3-0 on its four-game homestand.
“He’s working hard,” Aldridge said of White. “He helps this team get better. He’s making the right reads, he’s growing offensively (and) he’s getting to the basket. I think he’s that difference maker right now.”
Aldridge, fresh off his seventh All-Star selection, made a critical three-point play in the final minute and had 13 rebounds.
“He’s had a great season and really kept us together when we were still learning,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “During the tough times when we were really discombobulated, he’s been a beast all season. It’s a good reward for him to make the All-Star team. He deserves it.”
DeMar DeRozan added 15 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a three-game absence because of a sore left knee.
After failing to make the All-Star Game as a reserve, D’Angelo Russell pressed his case to replace injured selection Victor Oladipo. Russell had 25 points, nine assists and four turnovers in 33 minutes for Brooklyn.
The Nets eclipsed 100 points for the 12th straight game even without Spencer Dinwiddie, their third-leading scorer.
“They’re not going to beat themselves,” Russell said of the Spurs. “So, when you go to an away game, you’ve got to come with your hard hat on and be ready to take that win.”
Brooklyn shot 47 percent from the field and had 30 assists, which was four off its season high.
Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll had 18 points each for the Nets.
Brooklyn, which had won seven of eight coming in, erased a 12-point deficit in the first half and led 97-90 with eight minutes remaining.
The Nets used a zone defense off their own made shots and played man-to-man when they missed. The strategy threw the Spurs off-kilter.
“Zones are tough for everybody in the NBA,” Popovich said. “With the short clock, people just sort of stop. It’s a good move. They’ve been really successful at it. They’ve used it quite a bit and it’s really helped them out. There were times it gave us trouble, at times we had good shots and missed them, but it keeps you on your toes and keeps you off balance. It’s a good tactic by coach (Kenny) Atkinson.”
San Antonio rallied in the fourth quarter, when it started finding some seams in the zone.
“It was one of them nights where we couldn’t make nothing to save our lives,” DeRozan said. “We just kept pushing, kept fighting and it turned for us.”
Aldridge’s three-point play after a foul on his own follow-up shot put the Spurs ahead 115-111 with 51.1 seconds remaining. Aldridge added two free throws with 3.6 seconds left, and Shabazz Napier missed a 26-footer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
“Pop went zone,” Atkinson said of the last shot. “It’s a good move by him. We obviously had a man-to-man play. Good job by him.”
Nets: Brooklyn’s last win in San Antonio was Jan. 22, 2002, when Jason Kidd had 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 92-86 victory at the Alamodome. … Dinwiddie missed his fourth straight game with torn ligaments in his right thumb. The Nets are 2-1 without the 6-foot-6 guard. … G Caris LeVert missed his 39th straight game with a dislocated right foot. … Brooklyn was also without Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) and Jared Dudley (strained left hamstring).
Spurs: A San Antonio player has participated in the All-Star Game in 21 straight seasons, the longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. … Aldridge, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the only players to play in the All-Star Game in seven of the last eight seasons. … Patty Mills became the 20th player to play 10,000 minutes with the Spurs.
The game was delayed for 2½ minutes early in the first quarter when three bats began hovering just above the court. Officials had players return to the bench as stadium staff, security and ballboys attempted to shoo the bats away with towels. A stadium official eventually brought out a net, but the bats were scared up to the rafters. Some fans shouted “Manu! Manu!” in tribute to recently retired Manu Ginobili, who swatted a bat with his hands in November 2009.
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DeRozan failed to make the All-Star Game for the first time since 2015, snapping a streak of three straight appearances. DeRozan made four All-Star appearances while with the Toronto Raptors before being traded to the Spurs in the offseason.
“I’m not going to sit here and be sad,” DeRozan told the Express-News. “I know the caliber of player I am. I can never be the one to say I should have made it over this guy. I’m not worried about it. Last year wasn’t my last one, pretty sure of that.”
Nets: At Orlando on Saturday night.
Spurs: Host New Orleans on Saturday night.