SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard would prefer to see the Spurs seal their wins with sound defense, rather than last-second shots.
When they need a big basket, though, he’s up to the task.
Leonard had 31 points and 10 rebounds, and San Antonio returned from an eight-game road trip to beat the Indiana Pacers 100-99 on Wednesday night.
Leonard hit a turnaround, fade-away jumper from 16 feet against Paul George with 2.4 seconds left to help the Spurs win their first home game since Feb 4.
“Just something you think about when you’re a kid and you’re in your front yard or at your school playing and you just count down 3, 2, 1,” Leonard said. “But I would rather us play a better game and 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.”
Indiana’s Monta Ellis missed a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining, and George missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We didn’t run it right at all,” George said of his final shot. “(C.J.) Miles was supposed to pin down and he didn’t pin down. He made me catch the ball way out there, and I tried to make something happen.”
San Antonio extended its winning streak to five games, including four straight to close its annual rodeo road trip in February.
Playing without point guard Tony Parker, who missed the game with a bruised quadriceps, the Spurs’ starters struggled throughout. Leonard outscored San Antonio’s other starters by 12 points.
“I don’t know what the reason is that first game back from a long road trip, but it always seems it’s a grind,” Spurs reserve David Lee said. “Guys aren’t always at their best and it wasn’t from a lack of effort. I thought we played really, really hard. Indiana is a tough team and they were hitting shots, but those are the kind of games you need to find a way to win.”
The matchup of All-Star forwards was a stalemate until the final five minutes. Leonard scored San Antonio’s final nine points during that stretch, including the game-winning shot, while George was limited to a pair of free throws.
“It’s fun just being able to guard somebody that is just coming at you aggressively every possession,” Leonard said. “And even when I’m coming back with the ball he’s into my head, wanting me to miss shots. It’s just fun playing basketball like that.”
George finished with 22 points, Miles added 19 and Myles Turner had 16 for the Pacers.
Pau Gasol and Lee had 18 points each off the bench for the Spurs.
“Our second unit did a good job at the end of that third coming into the fourth quarter just keeping us within two,” Leonard said. “Just keeping us there around that one-possession mark, and the starters came in with the same energy that they provided and we got going.”
Pacers: C Al Jefferson missed his fourth straight game following dental work. Jefferson had not missed any games prior to this recent stretch, which began Feb. 24. … Indiana is 10-20 on the road after posting a 19-22 mark away from home last season. … Indiana is 15-11 against the Western Conference. … Jeff Teague had five rebounds. The Pacers are 7-0 when he grabs at least seven. … Indiana is 9-6 when Miles starts. … The Pacers, who entered forcing 15 turnovers per game, created 18 against the Spurs.
Spurs: Parker missed his 12th game of the season and first since sitting out four straight from Jan. 19-24 with a sprained left foot. He missed one game previously with the bruised left quadriceps, sitting out a victory over Washington on Dec. 2. San Antonio is 10-2 without Parker. … Gasol made his opening 3-pointer, extending his streak to six straight. Gasol and his brother, Marc, combined to make 12 in a row before Pau missed his second attempt against the Pacers. … San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was assessed a technical foul two minutes into the game for walking the sideline past midcourt to berate Ben Taylor over an offensive foul on Dejounte Murray. … Popovich was named Western Conference coach of the month after leading the Spurs to an 8-2 record in February, including a 6-2 mark during the team’s annual rodeo road trip. It was the 17th time Popovich has won the award in his 20-year career, the most in NBA history.