Leonard Scores 17 As Spurs Beat Wolves 104-86
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have been touting their depth all season, and it was sorely needed to overcome the loss of another key player Sunday night.
Kawhi Leonard scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and San Antonio beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-86 Sunday night for its fourth straight win.
Already without Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs lost Danny Green early in the second quarter to a sprained finger. Minus two of their top wings and their starting center, Leonard and the team’s bench took over in the second half.
Tim Duncan had 15 points and Tony Parker added 14 points and 10 assists for Western Conference-leading San Antonio. Matt Bonner also scored 14 points — including 4-for-5 shooting on 3-pointers — and Marco Belinelli had 13 points and Patty Mills added 10.
“You’ve got to stay ready, especially around here,” Duncan said of overcoming the latest injury. “That’s what we preach, we’re getting everybody ready and you’ll get your opportunity whether it comes at the beginning or in the middle or in the end whenever it may be. When your time comes, you need to be ready to go because you’re going to earn your minutes.”
Leonard, who came in averaging 11.7 points in 35 games, had nine points in the third quarter, continually cutting to the basket to escape his defender for a series of dunks and layups. Leonard’s final basket of the quarter was a layup off an assist from Aron Baynes to put San Antonio up 81-71 entering the fourth.
Leonard finished 6 for 9 from the field in the second half.
San Antonio’s reserves, who average a league-leading 46 points per game, had 51 points. They scored 37 in the final three quarters after Green’s injury.
“Our whole team does a great job of staying ready,” Bonner said. “We work hard on off days, even on game days, to keep our wind up and stay sharp so we can come in and help the team win games. We pride ourselves on being a team, one through 14 or 15, and everybody’s ready to step in and contribute.”
The reserves also were critical defensively against a Timberwolves team that was averaging 107.6 point per game.
Nikola Pekovic scored 22 points to lead Minnesota, but was held to eight in the second half. Kevin Love had 14 points and Alexey Shved added 11.
Love had 42 points in his previous matchup with San Antonio on Dec. 13, shooting 8 for 9 on 3-pointers. He was unable to generate anything close to that Sunday, missing his only two 3-point attempts. He finished 3-for-14 shooting, struggling to get clean looks off against Bonner, Jeff Ayres and Boris Diaw.
“They were very physical with Kevin Love everywhere he moved,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “We have to figure out a way to help him out a little bit, see if we can’t have an answer for that.”
The Timberwolves went inside to Pekovic early, who rewarded the team with a pair of short jumpers over Duncan. He finished with 14 points and three rebounds in the first half, but was limited to eight points and three rebounds in the second half while battling Duncan, Ayres and Baynes for positioning.
“Pek’s huge, he’s a strong boy,” Duncan said. “He killed us on the offensive glass, especially in the first half. He had a great game tonight all around.”
With the defense limiting Minnesota, San Antonio turned to its ball-sharing offense to seal the victory. The Spurs had 31 assists on their 42 field goals while shooting 57 percent from the field.
“That’s just Spurs basketball,” Love said. “They’re very unselfish, they make the extra play and that’s tough to beat, especially when they have a couple of Hall of Famers in there. They’ve played together for a long time and they’re a good team. We played them well through the half and then they became the San Antonio Spurs.”
After passing the ball off twice to reset from long range, Bonner drained a 3-pointer that gave San Antonio a 22-15 lead.
The Spurs will need more of that when they travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Monday night without Green, Splitter and, possibly, Ginobili.
“(Green) will be out,” Popovich said. “He won’t go on the trip so we’ve lost him.”
NOTES: Ginobili missed his second straight game with tightness in his left hamstring despite a four-game break between games. … Green did not return after spraining his left index finger early in the second quarter. Making his second consecutive start after coming off the bench in 11 straight, Green missed his only field-goal attempt and had three rebounds in 9 minutes before getting hurt. … The Timberwolves have alternated wins and losses in their past eight games. They next play at home Wednesday against Sacramento. … Splitter (sprained right shoulder) missed his third straight game. He is expected to miss another two to four weeks with the injury, which occurred early in the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 4.
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