MIAMI (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 14 of his 27 points in the final 6:04, doing so with a bandage under his right eye and helping the San Antonio Spurs hold off the Miami Heat 106-99 on Sunday night to remain unbeaten.
Leonard left the game with 8:29 remaining to be tended to and returned for the final 6:48.
Pau Gasol had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who wasted a 16-point first-half lead before recovering. Patty Mills added 18 for San Antonio, the first team to get to 4-0 in this young NBA season.
Hassan Whiteside made his final seven shots and tied a career-high with 27 points for Miami, also grabbing 15 rebounds. Goran Dragic scored 25 points and Justise Winslow added 18 for the Heat.
Down big early, Miami kept chipping away — getting within eight by halftime, one in the third and finally taking the lead back on a layup by Dragic right before Leonard returned.
They held that lead for 18 seconds.
Leonard, who didn't seem bothered in the least by the bandage, found Mills for a 3-pointer on his first possession back in the game and then drove down a wide-open lane for a dunk on the next San Antonio trip.
Just like that, the Spurs were back on top — and they wouldn't trail again.
When the Spurs last visited on Feb. 9, both teams used 11 players. Of those 22, only seven were on the floor again for this matchup — four for the Spurs, three for the Heat.
Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, that game was the last Chris Bosh has played for the Heat.
He was diagnosed with a blood clot in Toronto two nights later, pulled out of All-Star weekend with what was called a calf strain, and thus started the trek toward where he is now — unable to get cleared to play because of his health issues and remaining part of the Heat in name only until he almost certainly gets waived in early 2017.
But even with tons of change, the Spurs remain the Spurs.
“They still have all the San Antonio principles, even without an incredible Hall of Fame player like (Tim Duncan),” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think for any basketball aficionado, you absolutely respect and enjoy how San Antonio just finds a way to stay ahead of the curve, continue to reinvent and be incredibly efficient on both sides of the game.”
Spurs: Gregg Popovich's teams are now 13-13 in Miami, having won their last five visits. … Leonard made his first five free throws before missing, ending his streak of 33 makes to start the season. … LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) got the night off. … Danny Green (left quad strain) was on the one-day trip for camaraderie's sake, Popovich said, though noted he isn't expected to play for a couple more weeks.
Heat: Whiteside wore a sleeve to protect his stitched-up left elbow, which was cut in Friday's loss to Charlotte. … Winslow missed his first five shots, airballing the last. He then made his next seven. … Spoelstra said Josh Richardson (knee) is getting closer to his season debut, but hasn't gone through a full practice yet.
SHORT NIGHT, LONG WEEK
The Spurs played at home on Saturday night, then landed in Miami at 2:30 a.m. — a tough turnaround for a 6 p.m. start against the Heat, even by NBA schedule standards.
Good news for the Spurs: This trip is one of only two instances this season when they'll deal with such a long flight on a back-to-back.
Bad news for the Spurs: The other is later this week. San Antonio plays Friday in Utah, then flies 1,100 miles to host the Clippers on Saturday.
Spurs: San Antonio goes home to face Utah on Tuesday. The Spurs have won their last 10 at home against the Jazz.
Heat: Miami's three-game homestand ends against Sacramento on Tuesday. The Heat have won their last 14 at home against the Kings.