ATLANTA — LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick White provided quite a 1-2 punch for the San Antonio Spurs.
Aldridge scored 32 points and White made one big play after another down the stretch to help the Spurs pull away for their fourth straight victory, 111-104 over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
“Derrick and L.A. were special,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team tightened its grip on the final playoff spot in the West.
While Aldridge knocked down 11 of 16 shots, White really stood out in the closing minutes. He scored seven straights points, putting San Antonio ahead to stay with a 3-pointer before hitting two straight shots in the lane for a 98-93 lead. Finally, with the Hawks desperately needing a stop, White zipped a pass to Aldridge under the basket for a lay-in that sealed the victory.
“I was just trying to make the right play,” White said.
The second-year guard finished with 18 points, nine assists and career-best six blocks, tying a franchise record for rejections by guard.
“Man, he played great,” Aldridge said. “Six blocks — I don’t know if I’ve ever had that many blocks as a big, so it’s kind of impressive. He just ran the offense, made the right reads. … That’s just him. I don’t get surprised anymore. I’ve been a fan since Day One.”
Trae Young led the Hawks with 24 points but made only eight of 24 shots, going 1 for 7 from beyond the arc with White in his face much of the night.
Atlanta was also hampered by the loss of Taurean Prince, who was ejected with 7:28 left in the third quarter after picking up two straight technical fouls. Scott Foster slapped Prince with a T at the end of a play, Prince said something else, and the referee quickly signaled that his night was done.
“If we had him in the second half, it would’ve been a totally different ballgame,” Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore said. “We had to shorten the bench a little bit.”
Atlanta’s Vince Carter also picked up a technical in the fourth for complaining loudly when he didn’t get the call on a drive to the basket.
John Collins returned to the Hawks lineup after missing three straight games with flu-like symptoms. He was limited to 25 minutes, but still scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Atlanta forward Alex Poythress will likely be out for an extended period after leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle.
The Hawks were already missing center Dewayne Dedmon, who didn’t dress because of bruised right knee. With Prince’s ejection, Atlanta’s depth was severely limited in the closing minutes. The team finished out the game with a lineup that included rookies Young and Kevin Huerter, the 42-year-old Carter and backup DeAndre’ Bembry.
Rudy Gay started for the Spurs in place of Jakob Poeltl, who was sidelined by a sore left hamstring.
Spurs: White, who is 6-foot-4, signaled what was to come in the opening minutes when he dunked over 7-1 center Alex Len. … Patty Mills chipped in with 12 points while contributing some key minutes at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. … Davis Bertans also had 12 points — all on 3-pointers. … Gay led San Antonio with 11 rebounds. … Aldridge scored at least 30 points for the eighth time this season.
Hawks: Prince finished with nine points and five rebounds. … Atlanta was outscored by 16 points when Young was on the court. … The youthful Hawks have struggled to close out games. The last five Atlanta losses have been by a combined 26 points, including a four-overtime setback to the Bulls. “It’s definitely been frustrating,” Young said. “We just can’t get over the hump. We can’t get the stop when we need it. We can’t get the basket.”
Dedmon’s absence led to a humorous moment during the pre-game introductions, which were conducted in Spanish as part of the NBA’s annual celebration of Latin American culture.
Apparently not getting word that Dedmon wasn’t playing, the fill-in announcer screamed his name as a part of the starting lineup. Len lingered on the bench for a few seconds, smiling sheepishly before running onto the court as the actual starter.
Spurs: Return home to host the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
Hawks: Host the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday in the first of back-to-back games at State Farm Arena.