Leonard matches career high with 32, Spurs beat Heat 112-88
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs nearly suffered a major misstep on their march to making league history.
All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard left the Spurs’ 112-88 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night with a bruised right quadriceps, but it did not appear serious judging by the team’s reaction during and after the injury.
Leonard matched his career high with 32 points exited with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter after sinking a free throw to complete a three-point play after being fouled on a driving layup by Justise Winslow. Leonard went straight to the locker room, followed by Spurs trainer Will Sevening.
The extent of the injury was not immediately known, but San Antonio’s team doctors remained in the team’s box suite — possibly indicating that the injury didn’t require urgent attention. Spurs point guard Tony Parker said such an injury usually requires minimal rest.
“Depends, but, two, three days, you know,” Parker said. “I don’t think it’s that bad.”
Leonard’s injury could have put a damper on the Spurs’ 60th overall victory, but it appeared minor. He was having his most dynamic game of the season prior to the injury as San Antonio tries to remain perfect at home.
“As time goes on, he’s learning how to understanding how to feel his oats and channel it wisely,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
San Antonio earned its 36th straight home victory to open the season, leaving the Spurs a game shy of matching the record set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96. Golden State is also undefeated at home this season, having won 32 straight games entering their matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. The Spurs have won 45 consecutive regular-season games at home over two seasons.
“They’re a good team,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who had 16 points. “Thirty-six teams came in here and 35 went out the same way we did. They’ve got a very good team. What more can I say, they’re good.”
San Antonio, which hosts Memphis on Friday, was keenly focused two days after blowing a 23-point advantage in a loss to Charlotte. It was the Spurs’ largest lead blown since Tim Duncan joined the team in 1997.
“Out to Lunch,” Popovich repeated facetiously of the bounce-back win. “Did I say that, or did you make that up? They played very well tonight. Great team defense. Good concentration. Ball moved well.”
Leonard had 24 points in the first half, closing the final minute of the second quarter by driving past Joe Johnson for a layup and tipping in Danny Green’s missed jumper with 17 seconds remaining.
“I never saw him aggressive like that,” Parker said. “He was very aggressive. It was going in. He was playing well. He was rolling.”
Leonard completed a three-point play early in the third quarter after fighting through Josh McRoberts’ failed attempt to wrap up the 6-foot-7 forward by wrapping his left arm around his chest. Fans loudly chanted “MVP” as Leonard made the free throw, which gave the Spurs their largest lead at the time at 66-53.
He finished 3 for 7 on 3-pointers and 5 for 7 on free throws in tying the career high he set Oct. 28 in the team’s season opener at Oklahoma City.
“They just kept getting to the free throw line,” Heat center Hassan Whiteside said.
Miami (41-30) dropped a half-game behind Atlanta (42-30) for the lead in the Southeast Division.
Josh Richardson led Miami with 17 points, going 3 for 4 on 3-pointers, and Whiteside had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Heat: Miami was without F Chris Bosh (recovering from blood clots), F Luol Deng (sore left quadriceps) and G Tyler Johnson (left shoulder surgery). ... The Heat have lost four straight against the Spurs in the regular season. Their last victory was Jan. 26, 2014, in Miami. San Antonio’s last home loss to Miami was March 13, 2013.
Spurs: San Antonio has 11 games remaining in the regular season, including two games each against Golden State, Oklahoma City and Memphis. ... Popovich received a technical foul with just under 3 minutes remaining in the first half. He followed lead official Jason Phillips to midcourt along the sideline while arguing an out-of-bounds call against San Antonio. Replays showed Whiteside was the last to touch a loose ball after diving in front of the Spurs’ bench. Officials ruled Parker had tipped the ball after Whiteside, but he appeared to miss swiping at it. ... Former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau attended the game as a guest of the Spurs. Thibodeau has long had a close relationship with Popovich and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford.
Spurs rookie center Boban Marjanovic had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 13 minutes.
“He’s one of the most selfish players I’ve been around,” Popovich joked, unable to stifle his laughter. “He shot it every time he touched it. It’s incredible. He should apologize to his team tomorrow for being so greedy. He just wanted to get his name in the paper.”
Marjanovic was shocked when told of Popovich’s comments.
“If coach said that, then ...,” Marjanovic said before being informed Popovich was kidding.
“This just happened tonight,” Marjanovic said, smiling in relief. “I felt great tonight.”
Heat: Host Orlando on Friday.
Spurs: Host Memphis on Friday.