LOS ANGELES: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Toronto Raptors 108-106 on Tuesday (Monday in Manila) to stay on the heels of the Golden State Warriors at the top of the Western Conference.
Aldridge, who also grabbed seven rebounds and two assists, led the scoring as the Spurs notched their fifth win on the trot to improve to 36-9, two games behind the Warriors (38-7).
Toronto’s defeat was their fourth straight loss however, and their challenge was hampered by the absence of DeMar DeRozan, who sprained an ankle at the weekend.
The Spurs, missing Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, had surged into a 13-point lead at one stage in the first half but Toronto drew level in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter at the Air Canada Centre.
Dejounte Murray gave San Antonio a two-point lead with a jump shot before Toronto’s Terrence Ross missed a 25-foot effort with 1:17 to play.
The Raptors meanwhile were unable to punish a Spurs turnover with 45 seconds left before Aldridge scored two key free throws to help get San Antonio over the line.
Patty Mills was the other main scorer for San Antonio with 18 points while Dave Bertans (12) and David Lee (11) also made key contributions.
Kyle Lowry topped Toronto’s scoring with 30 points, while Ross added 21 points off the bench.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the absences on both teams had evened each other out.
“You know they’re missing Mr. DeRozan, so we both had players missing,” Popovich said.
“I thought it was a really competitive game, anybody could have won the thing. … Down the stretch, very honestly, it went our way. We didn’t do anything special to deserve it other than playing hard just like they did so we’re thrilled with the win.”
In Orlando, Dwyane Wade scored 21 points and Jimmy Butler 20 as the Chicago Bulls eased past the Orlando Magic 100-92 at the Amway Center.
Wade finally came good after a slow start, missing his first six shots before hitting eight of his next nine to give Chicago a third period lead which they never relinquished.
Chicago improved to 23-23 with the win while Orlando fell to 18-29.
Sixers stun Clippers
The biggest upset of Tuesday’s early games came in Philadelphia, where the 16-27 76ers stunned the Los Angeles Clippers 121-110.
Nerlens Noel—replacing the injured Joel Embiid—was the star for Philly, scoring a season-high 19 points as the Clippers fell to 30-17.
Backup Richaun Holmes scored an equal career-best 18 points as Philadelphia turned around a 19-point third-quarter deficit to bag their fourth win in five games.
Dario Saric chipped in with 16 points and Robert Covington added 14 for the 76ers, who made 19 of 20 free throws while committing only five turnovers.
The Clippers points came via Jamal Crawford with 27, and J.J. Redick with 22.
The LA club were without coach Doc Rivers, who was ill, but welcomed back Blake Griffin following an 18-game absence caused by knee surgery.
Griffin scored 12 points and finished with 11 rebounds and five assists. DeAndre Jordan added 10 points and 20 rebounds.
In the Eastern Conference, Bradley Beal scored 31 points to help the Washington Wizards win their grudge match with the Boston Celtics 123-108.
The two teams have developed a bitter rivalry in recent seasons after a string of ill-tempered clashes, and the Wizards added fuel on Tuesday by arriving for the game dressed in black.
That appeared to be a reference to John Wall’s remarks on Monday that they planned to be attending Boston’s funeral on Tuesday.
Wall finished Tuesday’s game with 27 points to extend Washington’s home winning streak to 14 games. The Wizards improved to 25-20, remaining firmly in pursuit of Boston who fell to 26-18.
“I love games like this. It’s what makes it fun,” Beal said. “Guys are competitive. It wasn’t a dirty game. We both kept it clean regardless of what happened last game. That’s a respect factor on both sides. We competed our tails off, and I felt like we dominated most of the game.”