LEONARD GAME WIN­NER

Spurs win back-to-back OT games, clinch play­off spot

New Straits Times - - Sport - AFP

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and the San An­to­nio Spurs shrugged off a list­less start Satur­day to beat the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves 97-90 in over­time and clinch a NBA play­off spot.

Leonard led his team to their sec­ond straight over­time vic­tory in as many days as the Spurs booked their 20th con­sec­u­tive post-sea­son berth.

Leonard scored six of his 34 points in over­time as San An­to­nio stretched their win­ning streak to seven games. Leonard fin­ished with a team-high 31 points in a 101-98 vic­tory over the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans on Fri­day.

“We were locked in and just wanted to get this win tonight. That is where I got my en­ergy from,” Leonard said.

It is still early March but the Spurs are the sec­ond NBA team this sea­son to get into the play­offs be­hind Golden State, who did it last Satur­day with a 112-95 win over the Brook­lyn Nets.

The Spurs over­came three and half lethar­gic quar­ters of play Satur­day be­fore stag­ing a fu­ri­ous come­back in front of a crowd of 18,400 at Min­nesota’s AT&T Cen­ter arena.

Leonard’s two bas­kets and a pair of free throws gave the Spurs a 94-90 lead with 2:21 left in over­time and a Danny Green put­back with 18 sec­onds left iced the win for San An­to­nio.

The game was tied 83-83 but San An­to­nio had the fi­nal pos­ses­sion and 18.9 sec­onds to find a game-win­ning shot in reg­u­la­tion.

Leonard drib­bled out all but the fi­nal three sec­onds from above the top of the key, drove to his left against An­drew Wig­gins but did not get a shot off be­fore the quar­ter ex­pired.

In Houston, James Har­den caught fire in the third quar­ter en route to his league-lead­ing 49th dou­ble-dou­ble as the Houston Rock­ets top­pled the Mem­phis Grizzlies 123-108 to split the sea­son se­ries.

Har­den scored 20 of his game­high 33 points in the third, in­clud­ing 15 con­sec­u­tive points for the Rock­ets.

Har­den added 11 as­sists while Rock­ets cen­tre Clint Capela tal­lied a ca­reer-high 24 points with 11 re­bounds for his 10th dou­ble­dou­ble this sea­son.

Eric Gor­don fin­ished with 18 points and Nene came off the bench to score 11 points.

The Rock­ets got 45 points from their bench and fin­ished 18-for42 on three-point­ers.

In Mi­ami, the Heat took ad­van­tage of Cleve­land’s de­ci­sion to rest LeBron James and Kyrie Irv­ing by beat­ing the Cava­liers 120-92.

Go­ran Dragic led the Heat with 23 points. Has­san White­side added 20 points and 13 re­bounds for Mi­ami who have won 18 of their last 22 games.

The Heat made 18 three-point­ers, the most by Mi­ami this sea­son and the sec­ond most in fran­chise his­tory.

Mi­ami kept pace with the Detroit Pis­tons in the bat­tle for the eighth and fi­nal play­off po­si­tion in the East­ern Con­fer­ence.

The Heat and Cava­liers meet again on Mon­day when James and Irv­ing are ex­pected to play.

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