KAWHI Leonard bucked a slow start to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a resounding 103-92 victory over the Houston Rockets to regain homecourt advantage in their West semis series on Friday (Saturday, Manila time) at the Toyota Center.
Playing Game 3 with the injured Tony Parker out for the rest of the playoffs, the Spurs started well but couldn’t keep an early lead with Leonard struggling for form.
Trevor Ariza, who already had five treys in two quarters, put Houston up early in the second period before Leonard scored eight in a 12-5 spurt to close the break strong and take a 43-39 lead at halftime.
San Antonio’s bench then unleashed a 10-0 blitz late in the third to extend the lead to 11 but Houston responded with an 11-4 run bridging the last two periods to trim the gap to four, 72-68, early in the fourth.
Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge teamed up on another 12-4 rally to put the Spurs up by 12, 88-76, with over five minutes to play.
Houston came within eight but San Antonio pushed the advantage back to 15 with timely hits from Danny Green before the Spurs hit just enough free throws to seal the win.
Leonard and Aldridge each scored 26 points to lead the Spurs, while Patty Mills played well in Parker’s absence to add 15 markers off the bench.
The Spurs were playing in the postseason without Parker for the first time since 2001, ending an NBA record of 221 straight playoff appearances for the Frenchman. The 34-year-old was injured in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
James Harden exploded for 43 points in a losing effort for Houston. Ariza added 17 markers and Clint Capela put up a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Game 4 is on Sunday.