SAN ANTONIO – Some athletes have a way of willing their team to victory when a game is on the line.
All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard demonstrated Wednesday night that he belongs in that elite group, hitting a 16-foot turnaround fade-away jumper with 2.4 seconds left to lead the Spurs to a stirring 100-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers at the AT&T Center.
“Coach Pop drew up a good play,” Leonard said. “LaMarcus (Aldridge) set a good screen for me. I got an easy catch in that corner. We had about nine seconds. I wanted to take my time and try to get a good shot off and it ended up going for me.”
Leonard, who finished with 31 points, was guarded by Paul George on the Spurs’ last possession. George had no doubt the Spurs would go to Leonard when they inbounded the ball with 8.5 seconds left. George knew Leonard would try to back him down and get a shot over him, as he had several times earlier in the game.
“With Kawhi there’s no A-B-C-D to his game,” George said. “He’s just A to B, no shortcuts. I knew he was going to try to work his way. He’s really good at being a spot guy. Get to his spot and raise up. He has unbelievable control with those hands. He made some tough shots and he made some big shots for them.”
George, who led the Pacers with 22 points, missed a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer.
Leonard hit 11 of 22 shots, including 3 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc, and added 10 rebounds, two assists and three steals.
“He does that every night,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Leonard's workman-like game. “I mean, everybody worked hard. Kawhi is obviously a talented young man, and he knocked down the last shot, but it’s always a team effort.
“I thought we hung tough. We didn’t play that sharp. Usually your first game after a long road trip is pretty tough, so you know we weren’t sharp. We didn’t shoot well in the first half, and they hung in there. The mental toughness showed. They just kept playing.”
Leonard scored on a 5-foot turnaround hook shot to put the Spurs up 98-94 with 3:34 left, but the Pacers pulled to within one on a 3-point bank shot by C.J. Miles with 2:10 remaining. After Danny Green missed scoring on a reverse layup with 1:48 left, Myles Turner gave Indiana a 99-98 lead with an 18-foot jumper with 1:35 remaining.
After the Spurs failed to score on their next two possessions, Pacers guard Monta Ellis was fouled and went to the free-throw line for two free throws with nine seconds left. He missed both of them, leaving the door wide open for the Spurs to pull out the victory.
After LaMarcus Aldridge secured the rebound on Ellis’ second miss, the Spurs called timeout with 8.5 seconds remaining.
Leonard was asked if he looks forward to last-shot plays.
“Definitely,” he said. “It’s something you think about when you’re a kid and you’re in your front yard or at your school playing and you count down 3, 2, 1 a lot of times. But, I mean, I would rather us play a better game and be able to just close it out without leaving the last shot up to me. But that’s what happened tonight, and I had to respond for my team.”
The Spurs improved to 46-13 with their fifth consecutive victory, while the Pacers slipped to 31-30. The game was the first at home in nearly a month for the Silver and Black, who went 6-2 on their annual rodeo road trip.
Pau Gasol and David Lee scored 18 points each and were the only other Spurs players in double figures. The scoring total is a season high for Lee, who went 8 for 8 from the field. The eight field goals are also a season high for Lee.
Gasol came off the bench for the third consecutive game since returning from a hand injury against the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday. He hit 4 of 7 shots, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, and went 8 for 8 at the free-throw line. Gasol has made 7 of his 9 attempts from the 3-point line since he returned from a broken finger in his left hand that sidelined him for 15 games.
“Everybody’s effort was great,” Popovich said. “And Pau, you know the couple of games he’s come off the bench, he’s been wonderful.”
The Silver and Black played without point guard Tony Parker, who was out with a quad contusion. Rookie Dejounte Murray started in Parker’s place and finished with six points and six assists.
Miles followed George with 19 points and Turner (16) and Ellis (11) rounded out Indiana's double-digit scoring.
The Spurs play at New Orleans on Friday and host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. The Silver and Black had played eighth consecutive road games since beating Denver on Feb. 4 at the AT&T Center.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Spurs' 100-99 victory Wednesday night:
Final: Spurs 100, Pacers 99. Kawhi Leonard hit a turnaround jumper to put the Silver and Black up by one with 2.4 seconds left.
Fourth quarter (1:35): Pacers 99, Spurs 98. The Silver and Black led 98-94 before C.J. Miles banked in a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one. Danny Green missed on a reverse layup on the Spurs' next possession and Miles Turner scored a basket for Indiana.
Fourth quarter (6:56): Spurs 89, Pacers 89. Manu Ginobili nails a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game. David Lee has scored a season-high 16 points for the Spurs.
Fourth quarter (10:00): Pacers 80, Spurs 76. David Bertans nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game at 76, but Monta Ellis and C.J. Miles scored back-to-back baskets to put Indiana back on top by four.
End of third quarter: Pacers 76, Spurs 73. Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol lead the Silver and Black's scoring with 22 and 18 points, respectively. Paul George leads Indiana with 19 points.
Third quarter (6:55): Spurs 58, Pacers 58. Indiana led by nine, 56-47, before the Silver and Black stormed back to tie the game with an 11-2 run. Kawhi Leonard scored nine points, including two 3-pointers, and Pau Gasol hit a basket to account for the Spurs' points. .
Halftime: Pacers 49, Spurs 47
First-half notes: Kawhi Leonard (3/9, 1/4) and Pau Gasol (2/3, 1/2) lead the Silver and Black's scoring with 11 points each. Leonard also had seven rebounds and two steals in the first quarter. The Spurs shot 39.5 percent (15/38) in the first half. They were 20 percent (3/15) from the 3-point line . . . Paul George paced Indiana with 14 points and was the only Pacer scoring in double figures. Indiana shot 46.5 percent (20/43) in the first two quarter and was 1 of 9 (11.1 percent) from beyond the arc . . . The Silver and Black led 29-28 after one quarter, ending the period on a 10-2 run after trailing 26-19. The Pacers outscored the Spurs 21-18 in the second quarter . . . Dewayne Dedmon started his 12th consecutive game at center for the Silver and Black.
Second quarter (2:09): Pacers 47, Spurs 43. Manu Ginobili completed a 3-point play to put the Silver and Black up 43-42, but Paul George hit a 3-pointer and scored on a jumper to put Indiana back up by four.
Second quarter (8:16): Pacers 36, Spurs 35. Rookie Dejounte Murray, who started for Tony Parker, scored a basket on a breakaway dunk after a steal and pass by Danny Green.
End of first quarter: Spurs 29, Pacers 28. Indiana led 26-19 before the Silver and Black ended the quarter on a 10-2 run. The Spurs made the run with their reserves. Pau Gasol scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, and Manu Ginobili gave the Silver and Black the lead by completing a 3-point play with 2.7 seconds left in the quarter.
First quarter (2:58): Pacers 22, Spurs 17
First quarter (7:14): Spurs 13, Pacers 13. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Silver and Black's scoring with six points.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black glad to be back home
Indiana Pacers (31-29) vs. Spurs (45-13)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, AT&T Center
Pacers’ last game: Beat Rockets 117-108, Monday, Houston
Spurs’ last game: Beat Lakers 119-98, Sunday, Los Angeles
Season series: Spurs lead 1-0
Last meeting: Spurs 110, Pacers 106, Feb. 13, Indianapolis
Pacers’ last 10 games: 3-7, won last game
Spurs’ last 10 games: 8-2, won last four games
Notable: Spurs point guard Tony Parker (quad contusion) is out for Wednesday’s game, coach Gregg Popovich told reporters 90 minutes before tipoff. Rookie Dejounte Murray will start in Parker's place.
SAN ANTONIO – Contrary to what one might think, it hasn’t been six months since the Spurs played a home game. It just seems that way.
After eight consecutive games on the road, the Silver and Black will take the floor at the AT&T Center for the first time since Feb. 4 when they meet the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Flush with confidence after going 6-2 on their 15th annual rodeo road trip, the Spurs (45-13) have the second-best record in the league and trail two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State (50-10) by four games.
Led by All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio beat Indiana 110-106 on Feb. 13 in Indianapolis. Leonard scored 32 points on 13-of-23 shooting and added six rebounds and four steals. The Pacers (31-29) are sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Silver and Black play 16 of their last 24 regular-season games at home, including 12 of 17 in March. They host Golden State on March 11 and March 29. San Antonio opened the season with a 129-100 road victory over Golden State on Oct. 25.
The Spurs began their long road trip with an 89-74 loss to Memphis on Feb. 6, but ended it with four consecutive wins. The Silver and Black go on an extended trip each February to make way for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo at the AT&T Center. They traveled nearly 7,400 miles and played in three time zones during this year’s trip.
“It’s always good to be back, especially after so much traveling,” center Pau Gasol said Monday after practice. “Finally settle down at home for a few days. It was nice to have a day off yesterday [Sunday] at home after a long time being at one hotel to the other.”
The rodeo road trip was the first for Gasol, who signed with the Spurs as a free agent last summer. He has looked impressive since returning from an injury Friday night, scoring 32 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and going 5 for 5 from the 3-point line in two games.
Gasol missed 15 consecutive games after fracturing a finger in his left hand in January. He looked sharp in the Spurs’ 105-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. He hit 5 of 7 shots and went 3 for 3 from the 3-point line, matching a career high for treys in a game.
Gasol, who started 39 games this season before he was injured, had another impressive game coming off the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. He had 15 points and seven rebounds in only 19 minutes and was 6 of 12 from the field, including 2 of 2 from the 3-point line.
A six-time All-Star, Gasol has started all but 15 of the 1,096 games he’s played in since his rookie season with Memphis in 2001-02. Gasol was asked Tuesday if he expects to come off the bench for the remainder of the season.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I’ll keep my mind open. I want to be real mature about this and really wise, and understand what’s best for the team is not really what’s best for me. Obviously, if you combine both, great. But it is a little bit of an adjustment so far."
"But again, I’m just happy I was able to play well after five weeks out with my surgery and produce. I did well these last two games. I hope I can continue to contribute as much as I have the last couple.”
Gasol had adapted well to playing with the second unit, which plays at a faster tempo than the starting five.
“With the second unit, I have more opportunities to score, to play my game,” Gasol said. “With the first unit, it’s a little more limited, my options. There is a difference. The personnel, the different style due to the personnel changes things up."
“At the end of the day, we are one group. We’ve just got to play smart and maximize everyone’s capabilities, knowing that you have to give up some of yourself for the betterment of your team.”
Dewayne Dedmon, who also signed with the Spurs as a free agent last summer, has started the team’s last 11 games at center. The Silver and Black have gone 9-2 during that span, and Dedmon has played a key role in their success.
Dedmon has recorded double-digit rebounds in seven of his last 10 starts, including a season-high 17 in a win over Detroit on Feb. 10. He also has a total of 11 blocks in the last 10 games.
“I definitely feel like it [starting] helps your chemistry with different players,” Dedmon said. “I’m just planning to do the same thing I do when I come off the bench, play hard and grab some rebounds.”
Next Spurs game after Wednesday: vs. Pelicans, 8:30 p.m., Friday, New Orleans
Next Spurs home game: vs. Timberwolves, 8 p.m., Saturday