Leonard earns his spurs in big night against the Rockets

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard shooting over Houston's Sam Dekker during the first half at AT&T Centre. The Spurs won the game 112-110 to record their eighth straight victory.
San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard shooting over Houston's Sam Dekker during the first half at AT&T Centre. The Spurs won the game 112-110 to record their eighth straight victory.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN ANTONIO (Texas) • Kawhi Leonard won an epic duel with James Harden as the San Antonio Spurs downed the Houston Rockets 112-110 in a thrilling battle in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Monday night.

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 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, behind Western Conference leaders Golden State, who are at 52-11.

Leonard's points haul was his 23rd 30-point game of the season.

With the Rockets, as usual, trying to rely on the game-closing skills of Harden in the fourth quarter, it was Leonard, the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year, who insisted on seizing the challenge, noted NBA.com.

"Late in the game, we tried to give him a break, tried to switch off," said Spurs shooting guard Danny Green. "But he wouldn't have it. So it was like, 'OK, go guard him'."

Leonard limited Harden to just a single field goal and four points in the final quarter.

"The block is what makes him special," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "Obviously, the three. You know, Harden makes threes, Kawhi makes threes, Steph (Curry) makes threes, everybody does that.

"But I don't know who goes to the other end and does what he does. Not that many people on a consistent basis, an entire game, game after game. Kawhi wanted it badly and he went and he took it."

Tony Parker added 19 points while LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points for the Spurs.

Harden had 12 assists as well as his 39 points to clinch a league-leading 50th double-double of the season.

Houston are third in the Western Conference standings at 44-20.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Leonard earns his spurs in big night against the Rockets'. Print Edition | Subscribe