SAN ANTONIO – With six games left in the Spurs' regular season, All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard knows how important it is to play with a degree of consistency in the homestretch.
"We are just trying to build right now, and it's a process," Leonard said. "You've got to just keep getting better these last six games. We'll see what happens."
Leonard scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter and Tony Parker finished with 21 points, leading the Spurs to a 109-103 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday afternoon at the AT&T Center.
"Every win is a good win," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Leonard stepped up big in the third period, nailing 6 of 8 shots and all three of his 3-point attempts for the game. Leonard was only 2 of 7 from the field in the first half, when Jonathon Simmons and Parker fueled the offense with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Leonard got his 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting and also had four rebounds and seven assists. Parker hit 7 of 15 shots, and finished with four rebounds and three assists.
"I feel that in the third quarter, whether that was one whole quarter or one run, they were really, really good," Utah coach Quin Snyder said of the Silver and Black. "Kawhi Leonard was unbelievable, and Tony really attacked us, too.
"We gave them a couple of things in transition that were too easy in that quarter, then we put them on the line. They didn't need any help with that. Those two guys are special players."
The Spurs (59-17) drew to within one victory of reaching the 60-win mark for the seventh time in franchise history. They host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night in what could be a preview of their first-round playoff series.
San Antonio, which has won seven of its last eight games, already has clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and Memphis is currently No. 7.
The Silver and Black led 46-29 with 8:15 left in the second quarter before Utah finished the half with a 23-8 run, cutting the 17-point deficit to two (54-52) at intermission. But the Jazz (47-30) got no closer than four points in the second half. With Leonard setting the pace, San Antonio led by as many as 15 in the third period.
Leonard and Parker were among five Spurs who scored in double figures. Simmons finished with 17 points and Pau Gasol and Davis Bertans scored 13 and 11, respectively. Gasol had a team-high 12 rebounds and Kyle Anderson finished with 10. Bertans buried three 3-pointers, all in the first half.
"I knew a couple guys were going to be out, but I didn't know it was going to be half the team," Gasol said. "I guess we still got the job done. The players that were available to play played at a high level, competed and got a good win against a tough team."
Utah is fourth in the West standings, but leads the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers by only a half-game.
LaMarcus Aldridge (left thumb sprain), Manu Ginobili (rest), Danny Green (left quad contusion) and Dejounte Murray (left groin). David Lee and Patty Mills dressed but not did play. Aldridge and Green are starters.
Popovich was heartened by the way Parker played.
"Yeah, Tony's getting his mojo back, I think," he said. "The last couple of games, he's starting to get confidence shooting his shot. It looks like he's getting his speed back, so that was good to see."
The Silver and Black shot 51.9 percent overall (40/77) and 52.6 percent (10/19) from the 3-point line.
Former Spur Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert scored 19 points each to pace the Jazz.
So why did Popovich opt to sit Lee and Mills although they suited up.
"I was sitting there and somebody told me David got whacked in the last game a little bit, and if we needed him, he'd play," Popovich said. "I decided I'd rather have him healthy for the playoffs. I thought we were playing really well.
"I thought it was a good experience for Bryn (Forbes, a rookie guard), rather than overplaying Patty. With Dejounte hurt, he's (Forbes) played a lot of minutes."
Forbes played nearly 21 minutes, finishing with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2 of 4 from the 3-point line.
Bertans and Anderson subbed for Aldridge and Green, respectively, joining Parker, Leonard and Dewayne Dedmon in the starting lineup.
Leonard was asked what he thought the younger players such as Bertans and Forbes benefited from getting so much playing time Sunday.
"Playing hard, wanting to compete, but it's more what they got out of it," he said. "Just the experience of playing against a playoff team like that, that runs their plays great, with great players on their team. That is what it's about, the guys playing and recognizing defenses, and what they need to do on the offensive end."
The Spurs lead the season series with the Jazz 2-1. They will meet again in their season finales April 12 in Salt Lake City.
Four of the Spurs’ last six regular-season games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started Monday. Two of the four will be played at the AT&T Center.
The Silver and Black play three of their last six games at home. The NBA playoffs begin Saturday, April 15.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Spurs' 109-103 win over the Jazz on Sunday:
Final: Spurs 109, Jazz 103
Records: Spurs 59-17, Jazz 47-30
Fourth quarter (2:07): Spurs 104, Jazz 98. Kawhi Leonard did return to the game, but he hasn't scored in the fourth period. The Jazz drew to within 102-98, but Jonathon Simmons just scored to put the Silver and Black up by six. Timeout Jazz.
Fourth quarter (6:26): Spurs 98, Jazz 86. Kawhi Leonard, who has not played in the fourth quarter, probably is through for the day. He leads the Spurs with 25 points, 19 in the second half.
End of third quarter: Spurs 88, Jazz 78. Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points in the period, giving him 25 for the game. Tony Parker (14), Davis Bertans (11) and Jonathon Simmons (11) are the other Spurs in double figures.
Third quarter (7:22): Spurs 70, Jazz 64. Former Spur Boris Diaw has hit back-to-back baskets for Utah. He has a season-high 17 points.
Third quarter (8:10): Spurs 70, Jazz 60. Kawhi Leonard has buried two 3-pointers in the period. Leonard and Tony Parker lead the Silver and Black scoring with 14 points each. David Bertans and Jonathon Simmons have scored 11 points apiece.
Halftime: Spurs 54, Jazz 52
First half notes: The Silver and Black led 46-29 with 8:15 left in the second quarter before Utah finished the half with a 23-8 run, cutting the 17-point deficit to two at intermission. Jonathon Simmons (11) and Tony Parker (10) lead the Spurs' scoring. Davis Bertans has nine points on three 3-pointers. Kawhi Leonard only scored six points in the first half, but he dished out six assists . . . The Spurs shot 52.4 percent overall (22/42) and 60 percent (6/10) from the 3-point line. They had 15 assists on their 22 made field goals . . . Rudy Gobert led the Jazz scoring with 12 points . . . Utah also shot 52.4 percent overall (22/42) and was 54.5 percent (6/11) from beyond the arc.
Second quarter (2:50): Spurs 50, Jazz 45. Jonathon Simmons leads the Silver and Black with 11 points and Tony Parker has 10.
Second quarter (6:57): Spurs 46, Jazz 34. Tony Parker leads the Spurs with 10 points. He has hit 5 of 8 shots. The Silver and Black have drained 5 of 7 shots from the 3-point line.
Second quarter (9:48): Spurs 40, Jazz 29. The Silver and Black have 12 assists on their 16 made field goals. Kawhi Leonard has five assists.
End of first quarter: Spurs 33, Jazz 28. The Silver and Black shot 65 percent overall (13/20) and 80 percent (4/5) from the 3-point line. Tony Parker leads the Spurs with eight points. Davis Bertans has six points, going 2 for 3 from beyond the arc. Kawhi Leonard has five assists. Utah shot 54.5 percent overall (12/22) and 60 percent (3/5) from long distance.
First quarter (1:59): Spurs 26, Jazz 25. The Silver and Black are shooting 68.8 percent (11/16) from the field and have nailed 2 of 3 shots from the 3-point line.
First quarter (5:13): Spurs 19, Jazz 15. Tony Parker has scored eight points for the Silver and Black on 4-of-6 shooting. The Spurs started Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans and Dewayne Dedmon.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black back on track after win over OKC
Utah Jazz (47-29) vs. Spurs (58-17)
Tipoff: 2:30 p.m., Sunday, AT&T Center
Season series: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: Spurs 100, Jazz 86, Nov. 4, Salt Lake City
Jazz’s last game: Beat Wizards 95-88, Friday, Salt Lake City
Spurs’ last game: Beat Thunder 100-95, Friday, Oklahoma City
Jazz’s last 10 games: 6-4, won last three
Spurs’ last 10 games: 7-3, won six of last seven
Notable: Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge (left thumb strain), Manu Ginobili (rest), Danny Green (left quad contusion) and Dejounte Murray (left groin) will not play Sunday.
SAN ANTONIO – Coaches and players often talk about the peaks and valleys of the NBA’s grinding, 82-game regular season.
The wear and tear not only takes a toll on players physically, it drains them mentally and emotionally.
The Spurs’ last two games illustrate why it’s important for players to stay on even keel as much as human possibly, guarding against getting too high after a win or too low after a loss.
Two nights after blowing a 22-point lead in a home loss to Golden State, the Silver and Black trailed by 21 points with 5:56 left in the third quarter before rallying for a scintillating 100-95 road victory over Oklahoma City on Friday.
San Antonio clinched the Southwest Division title and at least the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with the win.
The Spurs (58-17) continue the stretch run of the regular season with a home game against the Utah Jazz (57-29) at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The teams have split two games this season. The Jazz handed the Silver and Black their first loss of the season, 106-91 way back on Nov. 1 at the AT&T Center, and the Spurs won at Utah 100-86 three nights later.
The Silver and Black and Jazz square off one more time after Sunday, meeting in their season finales April 12 in Salt Lake City, which will be broadcast on KENS 5.
Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge (left thumb strain), Manu Ginobili (rest), Danny Green (left quad contusion) and Dejounte Murray (left groin) will not play Sunday.
Utah, which leads the Los Angeles Clippers by only one game for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, is coming off a 95-88 home win over the Washington Wizards on Friday night. The Jazz have won three games in a row and four of their last five.
The Spurs, who have won six of their last seven, should have a little more bounce in their step Sunday after their stirring victory over OKC. Looking lethargic for the first 30 minutes of the game, the Silver and Black didn’t take their first lead until the final 37 seconds. Trailing 54-41 at halftime, San Antonio outscored OKC 59-41 in the final two quarters.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 28 points after scoring only eight in the first half, and also finished with eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks. LaMarcus Aldridge was the only other starter scoring in double figures, finishing with 10 points and adding 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Aldridge made the defensive play of the game, blocking a shot by Russell Westbrook with 10 seconds left and the Spurs clinging to a 96-95 lead. Leonard scooped up the loose ball and dribbled almost the length of the court before he scored on a layup and was fouled. He completed the three-point play with 5.8 seconds remaining to secure the victory.
Pau Gasol (17) and Patty Mills (10) led the Spurs’ bench in scoring, and Manu Ginobili (8) and David Lee (8) were two other reserves who played key roles in the victory.
Ginobili played eight minutes in the fourth quarter and had four of his season-high eight assists in the period, and Lee finished with eight rebounds. Gasol, who had 12 of his 17 points in the second half, also passed for four assists. Tony Parker scored eight points, but he finished with only two assists.
Five of the Spurs’ last seven regular-season games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started Sunday. Three of the five will be played at the AT&T Center.
The Silver and Black play four of their last seven games at home. The NBA playoffs begin Saturday, April 15.
Next up for the Spurs after Sunday’s game: vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, AT&T Center