Basketball: Beaten San Antonio Spurs await Leonard's return

San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard shoots the ball over Phoenix Suns' Tyson Chandler during an NBA game on Jan 6, 2018.
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard shoots the ball over Phoenix Suns' Tyson Chandler during an NBA game on Jan 6, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • The San Antonio Spurs cannot wait to get back two-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard soon enough if they are to have any chance of extending their National Basketball Association (NBA) record streak of 20 straight play-off appearances.

The forward is reportedly in line for a return in Thursday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans but, in the meantime, San Antonio will have to soldier on after losing for the eighth time in 10 games in a 104-94 defeat by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

Russell Westbrook notched his 19th triple-double of the term with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the Thunder bench poured in 50 points as they improved to 6-3 since the All-Star break.

The Thunder held LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs' key man in the absence of Leonard, to 11 points on five-of-16 shooting as the Spurs (37-29) recorded a losing road record for the first time in 21 seasons.

"They were very aggressive," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They did a good job. He (Aldridge) didn't have one of his best nights... It just didn't work for him tonight and OKC was a big part of that."

The Thunder (39-29) jumped to fifth place in the Western Conference while Spurs slipped to seventh, but the home team suffered a blow after Steven Adams sprained his ankle in the third quarter.

Westbrook is now two triple-doubles away from becoming the fourth player to reach 100. Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138) and Jason Kidd (107) are the members of the century club. "I'm just competing," he said in a post-game interview on ABC.

"I'm thankful and blessed to the man above for the talents to play the game I love. I play each and every night and I go out and lay it on the floor every single night," the seven-time All-Star guard added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2018, with the headline 'Beaten Spurs await Leonard's return'. Print Edition | Subscribe