SAN ANTONIO – He’s baaack.
Kawhi Leonard, who sat out one game after sustaining a concussion last week, returned to action Monday night and scored 31 points as the Spurs beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-99 at the AT&T Center.
The victory moved San Antonio (52-14) into a tie with Golden State for first place in the Western Conference, but the Silver and Black own the tiebreaker against the Warriors because they won the season series. Golden State can move a half-game ahead ahead of San Antonio with a home victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Atlanta, coached by former Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, slipped to 37-30.
Leonard hit 10 of 24 shots, including 3 of 8 from beyond the arc, and added five rebounds and four assists. Pau Gasol had a double-double for the Spurs, scoring 13 points and getting 10 rebounds. Patty Mills (15), David Lee (14), Danny Green (14) rounded out San Antonio’s double-figure scoring.
Leonard entered the NBA's concussion protocol after being hit in the jaw by Thunder guard Victor Oladipo in a loss at Oklahome City last Thursday. Leonard was asked how he felt going into Monday night's game.
"I felt good, just like any other game," he said. "The medicine team and trainers did a good job of getting me prepared.
The Spurs led 28-18 after one quarter and outscored the Hawks 29-25 in the second period to go ahead by 14 at the half. San Antonio led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
Trailing 81-73 heading into the fourth period, Atlanta cut the deficit to one (86-85) on a basket by Warren graduate Taurean Prince with 8:08 left. But the Silver and Black buried four consecutive 3-pointers -- one by Bryn Forbes, one by Green, one by Leonard and one by Mills -- to go ahead 100-91 with 2:07 remaining.
While Leonard said he's proud to see the Silver and Black at the top of the Western Conference, he made it clear he and his teammates have loftier goals.
"From outside looking in, this isn't where we want to be," he said. "It's good for us to have this home-court advantage going into the playoffs, but we've been here before and lost in the playoffs early. We're still trying to focus in. The No. 1 seed doesn't mean anything going into the playoffs. We want to get to the Finals and win. That's the team goal. We still have to buy within ourselves and try to get better."
The Spurs played their second game without power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia last Friday. He underwent tests Monday. Point guards Tony Parker (back stiffness) and Dajounte Murray (left groin) also did not play.
The Spurs won despite committing a season-high 23 turnovers.that the Hawks converted into 21 points.
"All teams makes mistakes," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody plays a perfect game. That's why people score. But overall, I was pleased with our defense. I thought they did a great job holding those guys under 100, given the fact that we turned it over 20 times and still held them below 100.
"I think that was a heck of an effort by the guys tonight. You know, Atlanta is obviously a talented team, physical team. They execute well. Bud does a great job with them. We made some shots down the stretch. Patty and Kawhi stepped up and made some shots."
The Spurs offset the turnovers with good offensive efficiency that was punctuated by 16-of-34 shooting from the 3-point line. The Silver and Black shot 48.1 percent (39/81) overall from the field, and had 31 assists on their 39 field goals.
The Silver and Black offset the turnovers with good offensive efficiency that was punctuated by 16-of-34 shooting from the 3-point line. The Silver and Black shot 48.1 percent (39/81) overall from the field.
Hawks guard Dennis Schroder had his 10th double-double of the season, finishing with 22 points and 10 assists.Atlanta shot 45.7 percent (37/81) and converted 6 of 22 attempts (27.3) from beyond the arc. The Hawks also were sloppy with the ball, finishing with 16 turnovers that San Antonio converted into 20 points.
The Spurs started Leonard, Mills, Green, Lee and Dewayne Dedmon. Popovich praised Mills and Lee for their contributions.
"Patty's always got a good pace," Popovich said. "He's the ultimate team player. He's a dangerous player. He can shoot the ball and score, but he understands where his teammates are and he keeps everybody pretty involved."
Lee signed with the Spurs as a free agent last July and has bolstered the team's frontcourt with his grit and skills.
"Well, I've seen him play over time, and he's definitely not a minimum player, for sure, and he's proven that to a lot of people -- hopefully," Popovich said.
The Silver and Black host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Hawks-Spurs game Monday night:
Final: Spurs 107, Hawks 99. Kawhi Leonard returns from concussion to score 31 points in the Silver and Black's ninth consecutive home victory. Leonard has scored at least 30 points in 24 games this season.
Fourth quarter (1:00): Spurs 102, Warriors 91. The Silver and Black have nailed five consecutive 3-pointers.
Fourth quarter (2:45): Spurs 97, Hawks 91. Danny Green and Patty Mills have hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Silver and Black.
Fourth quarter (5:08): Spurs 94, Hawks 87. Rookie Bryn Forbes and Danny Green have hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Silver and Black some breathing room down the stretch.
Fourth quarter (9:16 left): Spurs 86, Hawks 81. Atlanta outscored the Silver and Black 30-27 in the third quarter. Dennis Schroder leads the Hawks with 20 points.
End of third quarter: Spurs 81, Hawks 73. Bryn Forbes hit a buzzer-beating jumper to put the Silver and Black up by eight heading into the fourth period. Kawhi Leonard leads the Spurs with 23 points.
Third quarter (5:12): Spurs 69, Hawks 61. Kawhi Leonard leads the Silver and Black with 21 points. David Lee and Patty Mills have 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Third quarter (9:58): Spurs 58, Hawks 47. Patty Mills has 10 points after hitting two free throws with 10:06 left in the period.
Halftime: Spurs 54, Hawks 43.
First-half notes: The Spurs led 28-18 after one quarter and outscored the Hawks 29-25 in the second period to go ahead by 14 at the half. San Antonio led by as many as 15 points in the first half . . . Kawhi Leonard led the Silver and Black with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. He was the only Spur in double figures. Pau Gasol had nine points and David Lee and Patty Mills scored eight each . . . The Silver and Black shot 55 percent (22/40) overall and 52.9 percent (9/17) from the 3-point line . . . Dennis Schroder paced the Hawks with 14, and was the only Atlanta player scoring in doublt digits. The Hawks shot 44.4 percent (16/36) and were 2 of 7 (28.6 percent) from long distance.
Second quarter (4:09): Spurs 41, Hawks 29. Kawhi leads the Spurs with 21 points
Second quarter (8:56): Spurs 31, Hawks 18. Atlanta has gone more than three minutes in the quarter without scoring a point.
End of first quarter: Spurs 28, Hawks 18. Kawhi Leonard led the Silver and Black in the opening period, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1 of 2 from long distance. The Spurs nailed 4 of 7 shots from beyond the arc. Patty Mills, Pau Gasol and David Bertans each made a 3-pointer in the opening period.
First quarter (5:18): Spurs 17, Hawks 15. The Silver and Black have hit 3 of 6 shots from the 3-point line.
First quarter (8:15): Hawks 8, Spurs 2. David Lee has scored the only points for the Silver and Black, getting a basket on a layup after making a steal.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Leonard will play against Hawks on Monday night
Atlanta Hawks (37-29) vs. Spurs (51-14)
Tipoff: 7 p.m., Monday, AT&T Center
Hawks’ last game: Beat Grizzlies 107-90, Saturday, Memphis
Spurs’ last game: Beat Golden State Warriors 107-85, Saturday, AT&T Center
Season series: Hawks lead 1-0
Last meeting: Hawks 114, Spurs 112, OT, Jan. 1, Atlanta
Hawks’ last 10 games: 5-5, won last three
Spurs’ last 10 games: 9-1, won last game
Notable: The Hawks never have won at the AT&T Center and have lost 18 consecutive games to the Spurs in San Antonio, dating to a 109-89 loss in 1997 at the Alamodome.
SAN ANTONIO – All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who missed one game after suffering a concussion in the third quarter of the Spurs' loss at Oklahoma City last Thursday, will play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, coach Gregg Popovich said in his pregame session with reporters.
The Spurs still will have some empty saddles in their ranks again Monday night when they host the Hawks, who have won three in a row and are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Coached by former Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks defeated the Silver and Black 114-112 in overtime on New Year’s Day in the teams’ first meeting this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge (medical), Tony Parker (back stiffness) and Dajounte Murray (left groin) are all out for Monday night's game. .
Leonard, Aldridge, Parker and Murray missed the team’s 107-85 rout Saturday of the Golden State Warriors, who played without five players themselves. All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and key reserve Andre Iguodola were given the night off by coach Steve Kerr, and Golden State already was missing a fourth All-Star, Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since Feb. 28.
Aldridge is out indefinitely as he undergoes tests after being diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia Friday. Popovich had no update on Aldridge, who underwent tests Monday.
"We're just going to wait until he comes back and assess everything," Popovich said. "I think he'll be back (in San Antonio) either tomorrow morning or tonight. I don't know which."
The Spurs did not disclose where Aldridge had the tests.
Aldridge finished the game against OKC, but Leonard went to the bench late in the third quarter and never returned to the floor.
“He’s just moving through the protocol,” Popovich told reporters before the game against the Warriors. “They hope he’ll be fine by the end of it. It just takes a while. The next possible game is Monday. I’m hopeful he’ll be ready for that.”
Given its uncertainty, Aldridge’s medical issue is an entirely different matter.
“Tony, it’s his back,” Popovich said. “Dejounte, it’s his pelvic gone. And somebody says ‘heart.’ You’re thinking possible more long-term stuff. That’s a little scary. You don’t go there yet. They did tests today [Saturday] and they’re going to continue it on Monday.
“He’s going to see some people on Monday. Based on what they do and see, we’ll figure out what we’re looking at. I don’t know right now.”
Popovich started Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon against Golden State. Subbing for Parker, Mills had an outstanding game, leading the Spurs with 21 points despite playing only 21 minutes and sitting out the entire fourth quarter because the score was so lopsided.
Mills scored all of his points in the first half, hitting 8 of 10 shots, including 5 of 6 from the 3-point line. He went 0 for 3 in the third quarter before giving way to rookie Bryn Forbes, who finished with eight points and nailed a pair of 3-pointers.
“He was solid,” Popovich said of Forbes. “That was the best part of what he did. He made some shots, of course, and that’s great, but he was pretty solid, played pretty good defense. He knew what was going on, he was organized, and I thought he did a fine job.”
With three starters out – Green and Dedmon were the only regulars who took the floor for the opening tip – Popovich got a good look at all his players. Every player on the roster scored, including 34-year-old journeyman Joel Anthony, who finished with four points.
“Those guys love to get time,” Popovich said. “Players love playing, and when they get an opportunity, they take advantage of it as best they can.”
With three players out Monday night, the Spurs’ reserves are assured of getting more time on the floor again Monday night.
Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has come off the bench since returning from a broken finger on Feb. 24, was asked what the mindset of the team is with Leonard and Aldridge, the Spurs’ leading scorers, out of the lineup.
“Just go out there and play,” said Pau Gasol. “Each and everyone, try to bring our own game as individuals and try to play together as a group with the same principles. The game changes when certain players, in our case, Kawhi and LaMarcus are not out there. But we also know how to play with the rest of the guys and play well, play together, play a good game."
Taurean Prince, a Warren High School graduate and Baylor alum, is a rookie forward with Atlanta.
The Hawks have never won at the AT&T Center and have lost 18 consecutive games to the Spurs in San Antonio, dating to a 109-89 loss in 1997 at the Alamodome.
Next up for the Spurs after Monday’s game: vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 7 p.m., Wednesday, AT&T Center