Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in overtime
CLEVELAND — As Kawhi Leonard peeled the ice bag off his swollen left hand, Manu Ginobili hobbled through San Antonio’s locker room, his back stiffened from a run-in with LeBron James.
And 20 minutes after the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was in sweats still going over his team’s defensive breakdown in the final seconds.
“We messed up on that last play,” Leonard said. “We could easily be in double overtime right now.”
The Spurs may not have survived it.
Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and San Antonio downed Cleveland 118-115 despite missing starters Tony Parker and Pau Gasol.
Leonard scored six in OT, including a game-sealing dunk with 4.9 seconds left, as the Spurs regrouped after a late collapse in regulation.
David Lee, making a rare start in place of the injured Gasol, added 14 points as San Antonio improved to 18-4 on the road.
James and Kyrie Irving scored 29 apiece for the Cavs, who had the last shot in regulation and plenty of opportunities in the extra five minutes. Cleveland still had a chance to tie it in the final second of overtime, but Kevin Love missed a 3-pointer.
The matchup between two of the NBA’s best teams didn’t disappoint.
There were clutch shots, defensive stops, drama and in Leonard vs. James, a budding rivalry between superstars.
“Great game. Anybody’s game,” Popovich said. “Comes down to making shots. At the end of regulation we had some great shots that didn’t go down. In overtime they had some great shots that didn’t go down. It happens.”
James helped force overtime with a 30-footer with 34.8 seconds left. James then forced Leonard to miss a contested fadeaway, giving the Cavs chance to win it, but James missed an off-balance 3 in the final second as the teams went to the extra session tied 107-all.
San Antonio did not score in the final 2:47 of regulation.
Irving scored Cleveland’s first six points in overtime to give the Cavs a 113-111 lead, but Patty Mills got a second chance after badly missing a 3 and knocked one down to make it 114-113.
Aldridge’s two free throws put the Spurs up three before James committed his seventh turnover and the Cavs appeared to be done. But James forced a jump ball and won the tap, but in attempting to save the ball from going out of bounds, Love, who missed the previous game with back spasms, whipped it behind his back to Leonard, who went in for his dunk.
James lamented his turnover with 24 seconds left.
“We botched the play,” he said. “(Coach Tyronn Lue) T-Lue drew it up in the timeout and we as a group didn’t execute it the right way. We’ve got to be able to execute. Coming out of a timeout. We just sat down. We got our break. As a ballclub that’s trying to win a championship, we can’t have you go from a timeout to the court and forget what you’re supposed to do. It’s that simple.”
Spurs: Leonard also played a career-high 46 minutes. … Scored at least 100 points for the 20th straight game. … Leonard is the first San Antonio player to score at least 30 in six straight games since Mike Mitchell in 1986.
Cavaliers: Shot 12 of 22 from the line. … James has marveled at how San Antonio continues to fly under the radar despite its championship pedigree. “I think it’s that they don’t boast and brag about what they accomplish,” he said. “They’re not flashy. They just win and they’re consistent over there, but they’ve done a great job of just going about their business.” Lue has his own theory why the Spurs get overlooked. “Maybe Pop has it in his contract to fly under the radar,” he joked. “They’re good every year.”
Gasol is expected to miss at least one month after undergoing surgery on his broken left hand. The 7-footer got hurt during warmups on Thursday night, and his loss will not only test San Antonio’s depth but may force the Spurs to sign another big man.
Parker has a sore left foot, which isn’t considered serious, but he’s also expected to sit out Monday’s game at Brooklyn.
Spurs: Continue a four-game trip at Brooklyn on Monday.
Cavaliers: At New Orleans on Monday before returning home for three games next week.
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