Leonard scores 23 as Spurs beat Hornets 114-94
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The retooled San Antonio Spurs are learning more about each other every day.
They looked very comfortable on Saturday night.
Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 and the Spurs pulled away for a 114-94 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” reserve guard Patty Mills said. “We’re all learning each other and it’s good to know that when we have glimpses like that. It makes for an exciting sort of time, to know that if we can pull it all together and be more consistent with it, we’ll be all right.”
Leonard and Aldridge have paced the team offensively all season, but it was a balanced effort that overwhelmed Charlotte.
“They got hot, man,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said. “They got hot late in the game. We made some mistakes and they made us pay. That’s what they do, especially late in the game. They can explode just like that.”
San Antonio made eight 3-pointers in the second half of its highest scoring game of the season. The Spurs are still working free-agent additions Aldridge, David West and Rasual Butler into their offense.
Mills scored 15 points and Manu Ginobili added 13 for the Spurs, who have won both of their home games.
San Antonio seemed a step slower defensively than Charlotte for much of the game. The Hornets were shooting 55 percent from the field midway through the third quarter and finished at 47 percent.
The Spurs responded on the offensive end.
San Antonio’s reserves outscored Charlotte’s backups 49-31.
“I thought at the beginning of the third quarter we were really good,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “We weren’t ready. That group was more ready tonight for that pace of play.”
After going 1 for 7 on 3-pointers in the first half, San Antonio used its long-range shooting to go on a 20-2 run in the third quarter.
Following a three-point play by Leonard, San Antonio made four consecutive 3-pointers while building an 86-73 lead.
“That stretch was incredible,” Ginobili said. “I don’t know what kind of run it was, but it was fun to be out there. We moved the ball very well. We ran all over the place and took some open shots.”
Ginobili, who made three 3-pointers in the run, went 3 for 6 from long range.
Walker scored 27 points for Charlotte, which had won two in a row. Al Jefferson added 13 points.
“I feel like we got away from what we were doing,” Jefferson said of the third-quarter collapse. “The ball started sticking a little bit. We turned the ball over. If we play the way we are supposed to play, it’s going to be hard for any team to guard us.”
Hornets: Charlotte was making 10.4 3-pointers per game entering Saturday’s contest, but was held to 6-for-19 shooting from long range. ... Clifford was assessed a technical foul with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter at the close of San Antonio’s offensive barrage.
Spurs: The Spurs assigned SF Jonathon Simmons to their NBA Development League affiliate in Austin prior to Saturday’s game. Simmons had not played in San Antonio’s first five games. ... C Boban Marjanovic had two points and three fouls while playing the final 3:48 of the game.
Leonard, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has led the Spurs in scoring four times. Leonard, who is averaging 21.6 points, was 10-for-16 shooting while scoring 20-plus for fourth time this season.
SHORT ON 3s
Charlotte SF Marvin Williams had nine points in his sixth start in place of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will miss six months following right shoulder surgery. Williams is averaging 9.7 points, including three games in double figures. He made at least three 3-pointers in those double-digit games, but the Spurs held him to 1-for-2 shooting on 3s.
Hornets: At Minnesota on Tuesday.
Spurs: At Sacramento on Monday.