SAN ANTONIO – If there was ever a doubt that perseverance pays off, all one had to do was watch the San Antonio Spurs hang tough and pull out a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, 103-99, Thursday night at AT&T Center.
It came from the entire team with their leader setting the tone. The team got a huge lift when LaMarcus Aldridge decided he would play and deal with the pain from a knee injury he suffered in Washington.
"Trying to keep guys motivated and into it," Aldridge said. "We have already been offensively challenged this year. When I am not in the game, it makes it even harder on us. I thought guys definitely felt more comfortable that I was out there."
Aldridge finished the night with 25 points and 11 rebounds. He made the decision to play after the morning shootaround but his teammates didn't know he was going to be on the floor until just before the game.
"Pop was talking during the pregame and I didn't even want to know if he was playing or not, I was like this," Manu Ginobili said while covering his ears. "Once I saw he (coach Popovich) put him in on the first play I said 'whew.'"
Without Aldridge Ginobili knew it would be next to impossible to pull off a win.
"Playing without him is almost handing (the other team) a win because he's become so important," said Ginobili.
The Spurs were down five after the first quarter and seemingly struggling, the offense came alive and the team was able to give Aldridge a rest while they went on a on a 14-2 run to open the second quarter.
They outscored the Thunder 35-27 in the second quarter and lead by four at the half.
They gave up the lead in the third but in the fourth, with the game tied at 85, San Antonio went on a 10-2 run to go up eight.
Aldridge hit a big spinning slam around Steven Adams to keep the game in check. Even though Paul George went off for 26 points, San Antonio held Russell Westbrook to 19.
Once again it was the Spurs defense that held on to the victory, thanks to a couple of timely plays from Dejounte Murray who picked up a critical steal down the stretch and knocked a missed Thunder shot off the backboard to keep the ball alive for his team.
Those plays along with 7 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and a blocked shot earned high praise from his head coach.
"This was Dejounte's (Murray) best game as a pro, so we will see how he backs it up next game," said Popovich.
"I feel like I am bringing my all and showing them (coaches) that I am learning, watching film asking questions trying to lead my teammates," said Murray. "I am working hard every day."
The Spurs hard work at the win put them in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
"Every win is huge and we have to fight really hard to get them," Ginobili said.
They will look for their next win Sunday when they host the Houston Rockets at 2:30 p.m.