SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black no longer short-handed

Gameday at a glance

New York Knicks (17-17) vs. Spurs (24-11)
When, where:
Thursday, 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 106, Knicks 98, March 25, AT&T Center
Knicks’ last game: Lost to Bulls 92-87, Wednesday, Chicago
Spurs’ last game: Beat Nets 109-97, Tuesday, AT&T Center
Knicks’ last 10 games, streak: 5-5, lost three
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 7-3, won two
Notable: Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is probable for Thursday night’s game . . . Pau Gasol is now in the all-time NBA Top 30 in rebounding with 10,817 boards.

Contrary to what some are saying, the Spurs did not need name tags to identify themselves when they hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.

For the first time this season, the Silver and Black had everybody healthy and available to play. They celebrated the occasion with a 109-97 victory that pushed their record to 24-11 overall and a league-best 16-2 at home.

“It feels good to see what we’re capable of,” backup forward Rudy Gay said after Thursday morning’s shootaround.

Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 for the Spurs, who play their last home game of 2017 against the New York Knicks on Thursday night.

Leonard had his best game since returning from a quad injury that sidelined him for more than the first quarter of the season. Playing a season-high 26 minutes, Leonard hit 8 of 17 shots and showed some of the explosiveness that has made him one of the most dynamic players in the NBA.

“He’s our guy, Gay said of Leonard. “We want to see him healthy, going out there playing at his full capability. In order to get where we want to get, we need everybody healthy, everybody out there and everybody ready to win.”

Leonard has averaged 12.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in the five games he’s played since making his long-awaited season debut at Dallas on Dec. 12.

“Every game we see a little more rust go off, a little bit of hesitation goes away,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’re trying to fit in his game and the team game, and get him feeling comfortable with the ball. Just getting knocked and hit a little bit, that sort of thing, so every game is a little bit better.”

Spurs center Pau Gasol, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds and recorded his third consecutive double-double in the win over Brooklyn, called Leonard’s performance Tuesday night “a big step forward in his progression” after the game.

“Being able to play 26 minutes as good as he played tonight, I think, is a huge deal for us,” Gasol said. “We just want him to continue to be on that line and continue to work as he has been doing and hopefully continue to make steps forward.”

Point guard Tony Parker, who missed the first 19 games of the season while he recovered from surgery last May to repair the ruptured tendon in his left quadriceps, had another strong game. He played 24 minutes and finished with 14 points, making 6 of 10 shots.

Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills rounded out the Spurs’ double-figure scoring with 11 points each. 
The Silver and Black shot 51.2 percent (41/80) and were 43.8 percent (7/16) from the three-point line.

The Knicks (17-17) will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They lost to the Bulls 92-87 in Chicago on Wednesday, dropping their third game in a row. Kristaps Porzingis scored 23 points to lead New York against the Bulls.

Guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who has a stress injury in his lower left leg, probably won’t play against San Antonio. Hardaway is averaging 17.8 points and 4.2 rebounds.

“They’re a team that plays hard, a sneaky team,” Gay said. “You can’t downplay any opponent, and definitely not that team. They’re a team that can score in bunches and get hot at any point, so we can’t take them lightly at all.”

Up next for the Spurs after Thursday’s game: vs. Pistons, Saturday, 6 p.m., Detroit

© 2018 KENS-TV


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