NBA: Spurs run away from Detroit in win

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard going up for a dunk against the Detroit Pistons at the AT&T Center on March 2, 2016.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard going up for a dunk against the Detroit Pistons at the AT&T Center on March 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

(REUTERS) - The San Antonio Spurs continue to set one milestone after another during this record-breaking season but insist they are not paying any attention while keeping their collective eyes on the ultimate prize - another NBA title.

Kawhi Leonard poured in 27 points as the San Antonio Spurs shrugged off a ragged first half and ran away from the Detroit Pistons 97-81 on Wednesday, winning their sixth straight game and remaining unbeaten at home this season.

San Antonio (51-9) improved to 29-0 at the AT&T Centre this season, extending their record for the best home start by a Western Conference team.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds for the Spurs as four of their starters scored in double figures. Tim Duncan hit for 12 points and gathered eight rebounds in 20 minutes of court time and Tony Parker scored 10 points for San Antonio.

The Spurs, up by one point at half-time, turned up their defence in the third quarter as Detroit shot just 22 per cent from the floor and trailed by as many as 17 points. Aldridge scored 13 points in the period.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was pleased with his team's effort on defence after half-time.

"It was very good," Popovich remarked in his succinct manner.

"We allowed 30 points in the second half. It's pretty special if you can do that. We played a better second half for sure."

San Antonio clinched their 19th straight play-off appearance, tying the Boston Celtics (1951-69) for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history.

Aldridge claimed he was not aware that the team clinched a play-off spot.

"It's something that's not been talked about in our locker room and I haven't really been paying attention because I try to stay locked in to what we are doing," Aldridge said.

The victory also allowed the Spurs to lengthen their regular-season home victory streak to 38 games, dating back to an overtime loss to Cleveland last March, and built on their best start in franchise history after 60 games.

Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris scored 16 points each to lead Detroit while reserve Aron Baynes added 12 points and Reggie Jackson hit for 11. Andre Drummond took a game-high 14 rebounds for the Pistons.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak by the Pistons (31-30).

"San Antonio plays great defence but we were very individual on offence in the second half," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.

"We didn't play together, we didn't move the ball, we didn't get second or third options and we played a lot of one on one and forced shots. If you do that against a good defensive team like them, you have no chance."

Leonard and Aldridge played the entire first quarter and combined for 17 of the Spurs' points as San Antonio ground out 28-19 advantage after 12 minutes of play. Leonard poured in 11 points in the quarter, including a short jumper with 3.3 second left to grant the Spurs their lead.

San Antonio sent all reserves to the floor to begin the second quarter and the group went scoreless for the first 2min 47sec of the period, allowing the Pistons to push to a 32-28 lead on a jumper by Morris. The Spurs bench finally responded, as Kyle Anderson and Boris Diaw scored five points each to put San Antonio back in front.

Detroit rolled off a 12-0 run with the help of three-pointers from reserves Steve Blake and Reggie Bullock, and a running one-hander by Jackson. The Pistons' charge caught San Antonio's attention and Leonard had six points in a 12-5 spurt that handed the Spurs a 52-51 lead at half-time.

The third quarter belonged to the Spurs, who outscored Detroit 27-14 and pushed their lead to 79-65.

"The ball just got stuck and San Antonio made us pay for not making them work," Jackson said. "They continued to find good shots and forced us into bad shots and turnovers. We stopped moving the ball. Sometimes you think you have a shot you think you can make when you should make the pass instead - we were guilty of that tonight."