Kawhi Leonard has double-double to lead Spurs past Grizzlies
San Antonio’s emphasis on continuous ball movement was cast aside in the fourth quarter. Even coach Gregg Popovich was content to see the ball stick in Kawhi Leonard’s over-sized hands.
Leonard scored San Antonio’s first 15 points of the final period on his way to 25 points and 10 rebounds, leading the Spurs to a 103-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
"What Kawhi did today was incredible and it was fun to watch," teammate Manu Ginobili said.
San Antonio won for the 13th time in 16 games to remain sixth in the Western Conference — 2 1/2 games ahead of Dallas and 1 1/2 games behind the Clippers.
Leonard took advantage of defensive mismatches with Memphis’ top wing defender, Tony Allen, sitting out with a strained left hamstring. The Grizzlies tried to shuttle Jeff Green between Leonard and Boris Diaw, which led 7-foot center Kosta Koufos to defend Leonard at times.
"We went to him and he went to himself," Popovich said. "It was little bit of both. He was rolling and he felt it."
Leonard shot 6 for 7 from the field in the fourth quarter, including his only 3-pointer of the game.
"I was getting the shots that I wanted," Leonard said. "Guys were looking for me and they fell."
"He made some tough shots, he made a lot of them," Memphis center Marc Gasol said.
San Antonio guard Tony Parker had nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. Tiago Splitter finished with 15 points, and Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw scored 10 apiece.
The Spurs shot 51 percent from the field in handing the Grizzlies their third straight loss.
"I’m glad we’re done playing them this season," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.
Zach Randolph had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis, and Jeff Green scored 19 points.
Leonard had a slow start offensively, but had an early steal that set up one of the game’s highlights.
With the crowd buzzing in anticipation of a thunderous dunk by Leonard, he pulled up at the free-throw line from a full sprint and threw a bounce pass to a trailing Duncan for a one-handed slam.
Randolph normally struggles against the Spurs’ physical defense, but he had no such troubles Sunday. He was 9 for 16 in 33 minutes.
"He was much more aggressive and he didn’t get double-teamed a ton," Joerger said. "They just tried to play him straight up with their size and make him beat them. I thought he did a really good job of being aggressive and attacking."
Instead, it was Gasol who had trouble scoring early on. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting.
"I couldn’t get my rhythm the first half," Gasol said. "Honestly, I didn’t feel like I had a rhythm the whole game or have had a rhythm in a while."
Grizzlies: Allen (strained left hamstring) was not with the team. … Memphis is 16-2 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field. The Grizzlies shot 44 percent Sunday.
Spurs: San Antonio C Aron Baynes returned from a three-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. He had four points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. … Splitter fell to the court after an inadvertent elbow from Gasol to the side of the head late in the first half. Splitter remained on the floor for about a minute before rising for a couple of free throws on Gasol’s foul. He remained in the game. … The Spurs are averaging 111.6 points per game in March while going 11-3. Their final game of the month is Tuesday in Miami.
Splitter and Randolph essentially had a wrestling match while chasing down a loose ball in the first half. The two became entangled, pushed aside each other’s arms and then tackled each other to the ground while the ball squirted into Ginobili’s hands. No foul was called, which led to a bemused look from Popovich, who waved his hand in dismissal, shrugged his shoulders and smiled at Joerger.
Popovich said the physicality is a common theme when the Spurs and Grizzlies play.
"It’s always going to be (that way) against Memphis," Popovich said. "They are a physical team, really well-coached, really fundamentally sound and they stick with it. They grind it out, as they say."
Despite the three-game skid, Memphis remains optimistic about its postseason chances. The Grizzlies have eight games remaining, including five at home.
"Where we’re trying to go isn’t easy," Green said. "We’re trying to make a title run. You have great teams in the Western Conference, you have great teams in this league. These last three games we’ve gotten the best of each team. Vince (Carter) said early when we got in, it’s not going to be easy the ride that we’re trying to get to. We just have to stay positive and stay together."