Leonard leads the charge as Thunder fall to Spurs

Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs displays balance and poise as he scores while Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder can only look on. Leonard scored 36 points as the Spurs won 108-94 on Tuesday.
Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs displays balance and poise as he scores while Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder can only look on. Leonard scored 36 points as the Spurs won 108-94 on Tuesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SAN ANTONIO • If all anyone expected was a duel between two of the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player candidates, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook, they might have been disappointed by the way the Spurs defeated the Thunder 108-94 on Tuesday.

Leonard (36 points and eight rebounds) and Westbrook (27 points and 14 assists) led San Antonio and Oklahoma City in scoring and were spectacular in their own ways. But it was the Spurs' bench that proved to be the difference, helping to turn the tide at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarters after San Antonio (37-11) squandered an 18-point lead.

The Spurs' reserves responded by outscoring Oklahoma City 15-2 and, once the starters returned, the Thunder had no answer. Overall, the Spurs' bench racked up 32 points to 22 for Thunder's reserves.

"I'm not sure (how to help the second unit)," Westbrook said. "We have to figure it out. I'll do a better job of trying to figure some things out myself to be able to at least help that second unit out."

Leonard scored 30 or more points for the 15th time this season while LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points.

"We're fired up just playing against Russ out there, just out there competing every possession," Leonard said after the Spurs held Westbrook scoreless in the fourth quarter.

"The way he's been playing has been ridiculous, so you definitely want to rise up to the challenge. We lost two games in a row so we were fired up off that."

Westbrook, who is the only player in the NBA averaging a triple-double, had just six rebounds. He has yet to record a triple-double against San Antonio. The Chicago Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets are the only other teams that have not allowed the guard to notch a triple-double against them.

Stephen Adams added 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Thunder (28-21). Victor Oladipo scored 15 points, Domantas Sabonis hit for 13 and pulled down 10 rebounds and Anthony Morrow tallied 11 points for Oklahoma City.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Leonard leads the charge as Thunder fall to Spurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe