SAN ANTONIO – Scoring at least 30 points in a game is becoming old hat for Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, an MVP candidate who excels on both ends of the court.
Leonard was at his best Saturday night, scoring 34 points and adding 10 rebounds, five assists and six steals to lead the Silver and Black to a 97-90 overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the AT&T Center.
Leonard has scored at least 30 points in 22 games this season. Only three players in Spurs franchise history have scored 30-plus points in at least 20 games in a season – George Gervin, David Robinson and Leonard.
San Antonio (48-13) clinched a playoff berth for the 20th season in a row with the victory. Gregg Popovich has been there for each of the postseason runs, tying him with Phil Jackson for most consecutive playoff berths for a head coach in NBA history.
The overtime game was the second in a row for the Spurs, who beat the New Orleans Pelicans 101-98 on the road Friday night. Leonard had a stellar performance in that game as well, finishing with 31 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. He had a big steal in the final minute of regulation and another in overtime.
The Spurs didn't get much sleep after getting back to San Antonio from New Orleans in the wee hours Saturday. They looked like a team playing in the second game of a back-to-back in the first half against the Timberwolves, tying a season low with 14 points in the first quarter and trailing by 16 in the first 24 minutes.
Leonard played 44 minutes Saturday night and 40 against the Pelicans on Friday.
"Last night we got in pretty late," Leonard said. "But I just have to stay in it, be mentally focused for tonight's game and that's how you've got to play."
It's been a memorable week for Leonard, who hit the game-winning shot in a 100-99 victory over Indiana on Wednesday. He finished that thriller with 31 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
Popovich was asked about Leonard's effort Saturday night.
"I try not to praise Kawhi too much. He's getting paid to do that," Popovich deadpanned.
Leonard was at his best at crunch time again Saturday night, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and six in overtime. He hit 6 of 11 shots in the fourth period and OT.
Is Leonard sometimes surprised with how adept he's gotten at taking over games?
"Not really," he said. "I work all summer and throughout the whole season being mentally prepared for the challenges I have to face. You've just got to keep going. If you play bad, go 0-and-10 in the fourth, or whatever, you've just got to keep pounding, just keep going, going, and not give up if you want to become that guy."
Minnesota (25-37) led 55-43 at halftime, but scored only 28 points in the last two quarters. The score was tied at 83 at the of regulation before the Silver and Black outscored the Wolves 14-7 in overtime. Minnesota was ahead 70-62 after three quarters, but the Spurs outscored the Wolves 21-13 in the fourth period. The Silver and Black had the final possession in regulation, but Leonard missed a jumper at the buzzer.
The Spurs never led until Leonard hit a five-foot jumper to put them up 80-78 with 2:45 remaining in regulation.
"Last night was a tough one, too, and tonight is the same, maybe tougher," Spurs center Pau Gasol said. "We had to dig in, especially coming from the effort. Our fans pushed us and gave us that boost of energy."
Gasol scored five points in the extra period, and hit a 3-pointer that gave the Silver and Black a 90-88 lead with 3:18 left in OT. LaMarcus Aldridge also recorded a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Gasol, who came off the bench for the fifth game in a row since returning from a broken left finger, had 17 points and eight rebounds.
"I'm tired but I'm happy," said Gasol, who hit 7 of 10 shots, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. "Happiness overcomes the fatigue. I'm good and I'm glad that the effort paid off and we won. At the end of the day, that's what we're here for."
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points. Ricky Rubio recorded the fifth triple-double of his career, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. It was Rubio's first triple-double since March 2, 2015.
The Spurs play the Houston Rockets at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the AT&T Center.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Spurs' 97-90 overtime win against the Timberwolves:
Final: Spurs 97, Timberwolves 90.
Overtime: Spurs 94, Timberwolves 90. Kawhi Leonard hits two free throws.
Overtime: Spurs 92, Timberwolves 90. Pau Gasol puts the Spurs ahead 90-88 with a 3-pointer. Minnesota ties the game on a basket by Ricky Rubio, but Kawhi Leonard puts the Silver and Black back on top with a jumper.
End of fourth quarter: Spurs 83, Timberwolves 83. Kawhi Leonard misses jumper at buzzer. Overtime!
Fourth quarter (18.9): Spurs 83, Timberwolves 83. Kawhi Leonard puts the Spurs up 83-81 on a fast-break layup after getting a rebound, but Karl-Anthony Towns scores on a drive to tie the game again.
Fourth quarter (1:38): Spurs 81, Timberwolves 81.
Fourth quarter (2:45): Spurs 80, Timberwolves 78. Kawhi Leonard gives the Silver and Black their first lead of the game with a basket in the paint.
Fourth quarter (4:06): Timberwolves 78, Spurs 75. The Silver and Black have cut Minnesota's lead to one four times, but have been able to go ahead.
Fourth quarter (5:38): Timberwolves 76, Spurs 75. The Silver and Black have cut Minnesota's lead to one twice, but haven't been able to go ahead.
Fourth quarter (9:25): Timberwolves 71, Spurs 68. Rookie point guard Dejoune Murray scores on a high-arc baseline runner! Timeout Minnesota.
End of third quarter: Timberwolves 70, Spurs 62. The Silver and Black cut Minnesota's lead to 67-62 before Nemanja Bjelica hit a 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Kawhi Leonard (14), LaMarcus Aldridge (13) and Pau Gasol (12) lead the Spurs' scoring.
Third quarter (2:50): Timberwolves 65, Spurs 57. The Silver and Black trimmed the deficit to six (63-57) before Minnesota scored again.
Third quarter (7:13): Timberwolves 60, Spurs 53. The Silver and Black have outscored Minnesota 10-5 in the second quarter.
Halftime: Timberwolves 55, Spurs 43
First-half notes: The Wolves led 26-14 after one quarter and they fought the Spurs to a 29-29 stalemate in the second period . . . LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol lead the Spurs' scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Gasol came off the bench for the fifth consecutive game. The Silver and Black shot 40 percent (18/45) in the first half. They were 27.3 percent from the 3-point line. hitting 3 of 11 attempts . . . Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns torched the Spurs for 20 points in the first half. He also had eight rebounds. Minnesota shot 46.9 percent from the 3-point line and 33.3 percent (2/6) from beyond the arc . . . The Spurs cut the Wolves' lead to 10 twice in the second quarter, but could get no closer.
Second quarter (5:28): Timberwolves 45, Spurs 30. The Spurs, who played Friday night, look a step slower than the Wolves. They look tired. Minnesota hadn't played since Wednesday night.
Second quarter (8:58): Timberwolves 33, Spurs 23. Minnesota has led by as many as 15 points early in the second quarter.
End of first quarter: Timberwolves 26, Spurs 14. Bad quarter for the Silver and Black. They shot only 33.3 percent (6.18) and were 1 of 5 from the 3-point line. Kawhi Leonard leads the Spurs with four points.
First quarter (1:47): Timberwolves 22, Spurs 11.
First quarter (6:47): Timberwolves 10, Spurs 7. Minnesota jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Tony Parker nailed a 3-pointer. Kawhi Leonard tied the game with back-to-back baskets.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black back home after another big road win
Minnesota Timberwolves (25-36) vs. Spurs (47-13)
Tipoff: 8 p.m., Saturday, AT&T Center
Timberwolves’ last game: Beat Utah Jazz 107-80, Wednesday, Salt Lake City
Spurs’ last game: Beat New Orleans Pelicans 101-98, Friday, New Orleans
Season series: Spurs lead 2-0
Last meeting: Spurs 122, Timberwolves 114, Jan. 17, AT&T Center
Timberwolves’ last 10 games: 6-4, won two in a row
Spurs’ last 10 games: 8-2, won six in a row
Notable: Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (rest) will not play in Saturday's game.
SAN ANTONIO – If the Spurs ever get around to playing as well at home as they do on the road, they could be dangerous.
Led by Kawhi Leonard, who had another stellar game on both ends of the court, the Silver and Black pulled out a 101-98 overtime victory against the Pelicans in New Orleans on Friday night.
The win pushed the Spurs’ road record to a league-best 27-7. They are 20-6 at the AT&T Center, where they went 40-1 in the regular season last year, tying the NBA record set by the 1985-86 Boston Celtics. San Antonio already has clinched a winning road record for the 20th consecutive season, a league mark.
The Spurs (47-13) play the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night, hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-36). Tipoff is at 8.
Friday night’s win was the sixth in a row for the Silver and Black, who are 2-0 against the Wolves this season. San Antonio won the last meeting 122-114 on Jan. 17 at the AT&T Center, and rolled to a 105-91 victory Dec. 6 in Minneapolis.
The Spurs have won nine in a row against Minnesota, including six straight at the AT&T Center. While the Wolves are 11 games under .500, they are coming off a 27-point road victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
Leonard finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the victory over the Pelicans. He had a big steal in the final minute of regulation and another in overtime.
LaMarcus Aldridge also stepped up for the Spurs, finishing with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Patty Mills and Pau Gasol had good games off the bench, scoring 15 and 13 points, respectively. Mills knocked down two critical 3-pointers in OT.
The game was the Silver and Black’s first against New Orleans since the Pelicans acquired five-time All-Star forward DeMarcus Cousins in a trade with Sacramento on Feb. 20. Cousins and four-time All-Star forward Anthony Davis are expected to give New Orleans one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league, but the Pelicans are 0-4 in games Davis has played in.
Still, New Orleans gave the Silver and Black all they wanted. Cousins finished with 19 points and 23 rebounds, and Davis and Jrue Holiday had 29 and 26 points, respectively.
The Spurs play 15 of their last 22 regular-season games at the AT&T Center. Eleven of their remaining 15 games in March also are at home.
Gasol was asked after the Spurs’ 100-99 win over Indiana on Wednesday what the Spurs’ mindset will be during the homestretch of the regular season.
“Approach every game with the same discipline, the same focus, trying to get better, trying to tighten up, so when crunch time comes you’re in the best possible position and you build up the right habits out there,” Gasol said. “I think that’s kind of our mindset. Face every game, again, with discipline and focus, and desire of winning and never giving up.”
Next Spurs game after Saturday: vs. Houston Rockets, 7:30 p.m., Monday, AT&T Center.