LEONARD MAKES BIG STATE­MENT

Spurs star burns Rock­ets for 39 points in come­back win

New Straits Times - - Sport -

KAWHI Leonard won an epic duel with James Har­den as the San An­to­nio Spurs downed the Hous­ton Rock­ets 112-110 in a thrilling NBA bat­tle on Mon­day.

Leonard and Har­den, two of the most in-form play­ers in the league, both fin­ished with iden­ti­cal tal­lies of 39 points af­ter a pul­sat­ing shoot-out be­tween the Texas ri­vals in San An­to­nio.

It was Leonard who ul­ti­mately set­tled the con­test for San An­to­nio af­ter Har­den’s free throw with 39 se­conds left gave the Rock­ets a 108-107 lead.

A Leonard three-pointer from above the top of the key put the Spurs 110-108 ahead be­fore two more free throws with 14.5 se­conds re­main­ing sealed a dra­matic win.

The win was an eighth-straight vic­tory for San An­to­nio, who im­proved to 49-13, three games be­hind Western Con­fer­ence lead­ers Golden State.

Leonard’s points haul was his 23rd 30-point game of the sea­son. Tony Parker added 19 points while LaMar­cus Aldridge had 15 points for the Spurs.

Har­den, mean­while, had 12 as­sists as well as his 39 points, league-lead­ing 50th double-double of the sea­son. Hous­ton are third in the Western Con­fer­ence stand­ings at 44-20.

Else­where, Golden State tight­ened their grip on the West with a 119-111 win over the At­lanta Hawks.

The War­riors, who are read­just­ing fol­low­ing the loss to in­jury last week of Kevin Du­rant, looked to veteran An­dre Iguo­dala to pro­vide the spark against the Hawks.

Iguo­dala, a piv­otal fig­ure in the War­riors’ march to the NBA Fi­nals ti­tle in 2015, came up with 24 points off the bench to help sub­due At­lanta.

“Col­lec­tively, as a unit, we try to make up for KD’s pres­ence,” Iguo­dala said. “Tonight we did a great job of that.”

Iguo­dala’s per­for­mance de­lighted War­riors coach Steve Kerr.

“I told him it looked like he was 25 out there again,” he said of the 33-year-old. “An­dre has been ab­so­lutely phe­nom­e­nal the last cou­ple of weeks. He just looks so spry out there and young and con­fi­dent and such a great bas­ket­ball player.”

While Golden State marched on, Eastern Con­fer­ence ri­vals Cleve­land, the de­fend­ing NBA Fi­nals cham­pi­ons, had a night to for­get at the Quicken Loans Arena.

LeBron James fin­ished with 30 points and Kyrie Irv­ing had 32 points, but it was not enough to stop the Cava­liers from slid­ing to a 106-98 de­feat against the Mi­ami Heat.

The de­feat was over­shad­owed by a cruel in­jury to new Cava­liers re­cruit An­drew Bogut, who limped off in­jured just 58 se­conds into his Cleve­land ca­reer af­ter join­ing from Philadel­phia last Thurs­day.

Tests later re­vealed the 32year-old Aus­tralian star had suf­fered a bro­ken leg.

James later said he feared the worst af­ter hear­ing the “crack” of a leg break, which could spell the end of Bogut’s sea­son.

“I heard a break,” James told re­porters. “As soon as the col­li­sion hap­pened, I heard a break. When I went over to him and he said it, I al­ready knew, I heard it crack.”

“How would you think his spirit’s like?” he added. “He played 58 se­conds. And have an in­jury like that to take you out for the rest of the sea­son, pos­si­bly, and you re­ally, there’s not much you can say.”

RE S U LT S : LA Clip­pers 116 Boston 102, Den­ver 108 Sacra­mento 96, Utah 88 New Or­leans 83, San An­to­nio 112 Hous­ton 110, Brook­lyn 122 Mem­phis 109, Char­lotte 100 In­di­ana 88, Golden State 119 At­lanta 111, Detroit 109 Chicago 95, Mil­wau­kee 112 Philadel­phia 98, NY Knicks 113 Or­lando 105, Mi­ami 106 Cleve­land 98.

San An­to­nio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard shoots over Hous­ton Rock­ets’ Clint Capela at AT&T Cen­tre on Mon­day.

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