Spurs’ Leonard could return Saturday against Suns
PHOENIX — San Antonio has done more than an admirable job of playing through the loss of All-Star Kawhi Leonard and, before that, Tony Parker.
Phoenix’s charge is to remain competitive without leading scorer Devin Booker, who is expected to miss two to three weeks with a strained left adductor muscle injured in a loss at Toronto on Tuesday.
The Spurs and Suns meet Saturday, when Leonard could make his season debut.
The Spurs (18-8) have won seven of their last eight games following after a 105-102 victory over Boston on Manu Ginobili’s 3-pointer with five seconds remaining at home Friday.
That was perhaps the Spurs’ final game without Leonard, who has missed the first 26 games of the season with tendiopathy — a tendon disease — in his left quadriceps.
“Sooner rather than later,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Friday when asked when Leonard will return.
LaMarcus Aldridge, courted hard by the Suns three years ago, had a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over Boston. He was one of five Spurs in double figures.
“He’s really gotten us through this time without Tony and Kawhi in a really wonderful way,” Popovich told Fox Sports Southwest. “We’d really be lost without him. LaMarcus is doing it on the defensive end, the offensive end, and as a leader.”
Without Booker on Thursday, the Suns (9-18) played a strong 43 minutes but could not sustain it in a 109-99 home loss to Washington. The Wizards went on a 9-0 run in the final five minutes and the Suns committed eight of their 13 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
TJ Warren led the Suns with 23 points and eight rebounds while playing a season-high 44 minutes because the Suns needed his offense with Booker out. Booker is averaging 24.3 points per game, 10th in the league.
The Suns started rookie Josh Jackson, the fourth player taken in the draft, in Booker’s off guard spot against Washington, in part to provide a defender against the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who nevertheless finished with 34 points.
It is unclear if Jackson will remain a starter, although he had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Troy Daniels, another starting candidate, had 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench Thursday.
“We’re going to miss (Booker) throughout the whole game, for sure,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “It’s a lot of minutes for TJ to play and Josh fouling out didn’t help. We’re thin at that spot right now, but our execution down the end wasn’t very good.
“The game comes down to the end where you give it to somebody, and we saw Beal do it and make tough shots and our guy who does that was on the pine.”
Veteran Jared Dudley sees teamwork as a way to compensate for the loss of Booker.
“With Booker out, we have to get 20-25 assists to give ourselves a chance,” Dudley said. “You got to get seven to 10 turnovers to have that. You think of ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ I think that they don’t realize when you start passing you are going to get easier, more open shots.”
The Suns signed Danuel House on Friday to add depth on the wing. House averaged 17.4 points for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G-League this season. He spent most of last season on the Wizards’ roster but played in only one game.
Spurs wing Danny Green did not play in the second half after leaving Friday’s game with tightness in his left groin. His status for Saturday is not known.