Leonard inspires as Spurs draw level with Warriors
Kawhi Leonard shrugged off the after-effects of a recent concussion to score 31 points as the San Antonio Spurs downed Atlanta to go level with Golden State at the top of the Western Conference on Monday.
Leonard, who had been concussed after a clash with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo last Thursday, showed no sign of the knock as he led the Spurs to a 107-99 victory over the Hawks.
The win gave San Antonio an identical 52-14 record to Western Conference pace-setters Golden State, who host Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Leonard was backed by an all-round scoring display from his Spurs team-mates with David Lee, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Pau Gasol all posting double figure points tallies.
Leonard also chipped in with five rebounds and four assists as the Spurs claimed back-to-back wins following their victory over an under-strength Golden State on Saturday.
For Atlanta, Dennis Schroder led the scoring with 22 points, with Tim Hardaway adding 17 points and Paul Millsap 16.
The Spurs lived dangerously at times however, and gave up a season-high 23 turnovers during an uneven performance.
“All teams make mistakes — nobody plays a perfect game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “But overall, I was pleased with our defense, given the fact that we turned it over 23 times and still held Atlanta below 100 points. I’m really pleased that we continued to guard and hustle the way we did despite being sloppy with the ball.”
Leonard meanwhile said he was fully recovered from his concussion which had left him complaining of headaches and blurred vision in his left eye.
“I felt good – it was just like any other game,” said Leonard. “Our trainers did a good job of getting me prepared.”
Elsewhere Monday, Karl-Anthony Towns poured on 39 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves pulled away for a surprisingly comfortable 119-104 win over the in-form Washington Wizards.
Ricky Rubio scored 22 points and added 19 assists for Minnesota as Washington slipped to 41-25 for the season. The Timberwolves have now won eight of their past 12 games.
Washington’s scoring was led by John Wall with 27 points while Bradley Beal contributed 20 points despite a wayward shooting performance that saw him make just seven of 21 attempts.
– Raptors claw Mavs –
In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points with six rebounds and two assists to guide the Raptors past the Dallas Mavericks 100-78.
The Raptors improved to 39-28 after losing their two previous games.
Toronto effectively settled the contest in the third quarter, building a 13-point lead which was soon stretched to 22 points in the fourth quarter after Fred VanVleet’s three pointer.
Norman Powell scored 19 points while Jonas Valanciunas weighed in with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Harrison Barnes with 18 points and Dirk Nowitzki with 17 points were top scorers for Dallas.
In Charlotte, the Chicago Bulls ended a five-game losing streak with a 115-109 win over the Hornets after Rajon Rondo’s 20-point haul.
The veteran added seven points and six assists and was the key figure in helping Chicago’s sputtering offense find its rhythm again.
Rondo was brought back into the starting line-up by coach Fred Hoiberg after the Bulls limp 100-80 surrender against Boston on Sunday. It was Rondo’s first start since late December.
“We had to make a change,” Hoiberg said. “We had five straight losses and we had to shake things up, and that’s what we decided to do to try to inject some pace into our team,” Hoiberg added, singling out Rondo for praise.
“Hopefully he’ll play well the rest of the year and hopefully he’ll continue to inject life into our team.”
Dwyane Wade, who scored 23 points, said Rondo’s speed had been the key to a rejuvenated performance.
“What Rondo brings to the game is his pace, which allows us to get the ball up the court and we’re moving the ball and our bodies are moving as well,” Wade said.
“It’s easy basketball to play, so it becomes contagious. It starts at our point guard, and then it goes down the line.”
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