Leonard’s 25 points help Spurs hold off Jazz
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have the league’s second-best record and can decide if they want to prepare for the postseason by resting or not resting players.
They did a little of both against Utah.
Kawhi Leonard had 25 points and seven assists, and the Spurs held off the Jazz 109-103 on Sunday in a matchup of postseason-bound teams.
San Antonio (59-17) had six players sit for rest and injury.
“You’ve got to do whatever is best for you and your team to be ready for the playoffs,” Spurs veteran Pau Gasol said. “To be at your best at that point, whether it’s playing more or playing less. That’s up to the coaching staff to make that assessment. That’s kind of our mindset, prepare for the bigger dance.”
The Spurs got their 30th home win despite resting Manu Ginobili, David Lee and Patty Mills, and missing injured starters LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green. Aldridge has a sprained left thumb and Green sat out with a bruised left quadriceps.
In the midst of five games in seven nights to close the season, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich opted to sit almost half his roster.
“That’s a lot of games, a lot of activity for the end of the season,” Popovich said. “Then we have to end it by going all the way to Portland, so I think we need to manage it wisely.”
The Jazz do not have that luxury.
Utah (47-30) leads the Los Angeles Clippers (47-31) by a half-game for the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the opening round.
The Jazz closed to 102-98 on Joe Johnson’s 16-footer with 2:06 remaining that capped a 10-0 run. Leonard then blocked a shot by 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert to help San Antonio preserve the victory.
Gobert had 19 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Boris Diaw scored 19 points, making all nine of his shots against his former team.
Leonard had 19 points in the third quarter as the Spurs rebuilt a 15-point lead they lost in the first half.
“He got hot,” Diaw said. “That’s the things he’s been doing all season. He’s a tough player when he’s playing that way. He scored a lot of points in a row, (hit some) tough 3s. We were not able to stop him at that point.”
The Spurs took a 17-point lead following a 20-4 run bridging the first and second quarters. The Jazz rallied behind six points, five blocks and four rebounds from Gobert in the second quarter.
Tony Parker had 21 points. Five of the team’s nine-player rotation scored in double figures.
“Tony’s getting his mojo back, I think,” Popovich said. “The last couple of games, he’s starting to get confidence shooting his shot. It looks like he’s getting his speed back, so that was good to see.”
Jazz: PG George Hill missed his third straight game with a strained right groin. … Diaw missed the first two games against his former team with a bruised right leg. The 6-8 forward from France played in 331 games in 4-plus seasons with San Antonio after being released by Charlotte. Diaw averaged 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. … Starting PF Derrick Favors has not played since March 6, missing 13 straight games with a bruised left knee bone. Coach Quin Snyder is not sure when Favors will return, but is hopeful it will be prior to the postseason.
Spurs: Parker became the fourth player in league history with 500 points and 250 assists in 16 seasons, joining John Stockton, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd. … San Antonio has the league’s best record since the All-Star break at 16-4. Portland and Golden State are both 15-5 over that span.
Gasol is on the verge of becoming the most accurate 3-point shooter in a single season by a 7-footer.
Gasol is shooting 53.7 percent on 3-pointers, making 50 for 93 in his first season with the Spurs. Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki has the league’s single-season record for shooting 3s by a 7-footer at 41.6 percent in 2007.
NO MORE HOMECOOKING
Diaw enjoyed a fine meal in his return to San Antonio, where he played from 2012-16 before being traded to Utah in the offseason.
He visited with Parker, his longtime friend and teammate with France’s national squad, on Saturday night after Utah arrived.
Diaw responded by shooting 9 for 9 in 19 minutes.
“That was messed up,” Parker said. “I took part of the blame because I gave him good wine last night and we had a good dinner.”
Jazz: Host Portland on Tuesday night.
Spurs: Host Memphis on Tuesday night.