Nov 11, 2014 1:25 AM
Leonard scores 26, Spurs rally past Clippers 89-85
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) Normally, the San Antonio Spurs like to move the ball around and get everyone touches. On this night they needed a go-to scorer, so coach Gregg Popovich started calling plays for Kawhi Leonard.
Last season's NBA Finals MVP tied his career high with 26 points despite playing with only one good eye, and the Spurs closed with a rush to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 89-85 Monday.
Leonard had been away from his teammates for a three-week stretch because of conjunctivitis, a highly contagious infection that has affected his right eye. Still, he pulled down 10 rebounds and gave the defending champions their first lead with 1:44 left.
"It's just that my vision isn't 100 percent yet," Leonard said. "But I'm just playing games trying to get used to it, and hopefully it will just blow past."
Tim Duncan added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker scored nine of his 13 in the fourth quarter for the Spurs, who snapped a two-game skid while earning their first road win.
"It was a grind," Duncan said. "Tony didn't play well. I didn't play well. Kawhi really carried us for a while there, made some great plays on defense."
San Antonio finished the game on a 14-3 run, giving Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker their 500th career victory together. They are second among trios in NBA history to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, who won 540 games with the Boston Celtics.
The Spurs' future, though, belongs to Leonard.
"We've got to start giving him the ball," Popovich said. "I don't think Tim and Manu are going to play any more than six or seven more years, so somebody else, do something."
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but committed two consecutive turnovers that led to the Spurs taking their first lead. J.J. Redick added 13 points, and Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 rebounds while just missing his second triple-double of the season with nine assists.
"They basically gave us a clinic down the stretch of how to close out a game," Paul said.
The Clippers led by seven with just under 6 minutes to play before their shooting went cold and Griffin's miscues proved costly. They were 4 of 14 in the fourth.
Griffin lost the ball, and Leonard's fast-break layup gave San Antonio its first lead at 83-82. Boris Diaw then stole the ball from Griffin. Parker missed, but the ball caromed out to the Spurs and Diaw hit a floater. Ginobili scored to make it 87-82.
"We definitely let that win slip away," Griffin said. "I had two bad turnovers at a critical time. With all that, we still had a chance to tie it up and force overtime. It's a lesson; we've got to keep fighting."
Jamal Crawford got fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three, drawing the Clippers within two.
Ginobili missed two free throws with 10 seconds to go and the Clippers called a timeout. New owner Steve Ballmer clenched his fists and bellowed, "Let's go!" as fans rose to their feet.
Paul missed on a driving layup that bounced off the rim and Griffin landed on the floor grabbing the rebound. He called a timeout they didn't have.
"You're sitting on the ground with the ball. You've got to think of something," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
After a review, the clock was set at 1.4 seconds. Parker missed the technical foul shot, but the Spurs retained possession. Leonard got fouled in the final seconds and made both.
"I can't imagine when he can really see again," Rivers said. "He willed that for them."
San Antonio twice got within two in the fourth, both times on free throws by Parker. He made a pair after Paul got called for a foul, although it appeared Parker pushed him down with his hand as the two got tangled on a drive to the basket.
"This team has been together through battles, so we know the game is not over yet," Leonard said.
The Clippers ran off five straight points to increase their lead to 82-75.
Both teams went 2 minutes without scoring before Duncan rattled off six straight points as part of the 14-3 run.
Spurs: F Tiago Splitter (right calf tightness), G Marco Belinelli (mild groin strain) and G Patty Mills (right shoulder surgery) sat out. Popovich said Splitter is likely to be out another week or two.
Clippers: Spencer Hawes has a sprained left foot and played restricted minutes for the third straight game. He's wearing a walking boot when he isn't on the court and won't practice this week. Hawes has four days to rest before the Clippers' next game.
The arena kiss cam landed on Griffin's parents, who smilingly obliged from the seats several rows up from the court. "I'll have to catch it on YouTube," Griffin said.
Spurs: Visit Golden State on Tuesday in their second back-to-back.
Clippers: Host Phoenix on Saturday.