Leonard saves Spurs from overtime in victory over Rockets

“I loved seeing that last shot go down so that nobody would have overtime. It made two teams really, really happy the game was over,” said San TPAntonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after rookie Kawhi Leonard knocked down a step-back 20-foot jumper to help the Spurs defeat the Houston Rockets 97-95 in the teams final preseason game.

“The last shot, Cory skipped it and I was open at the time,” said Leonard on the final possession, “I just stepped back and made the shot.”

The two absent members of Saturday’s meeting, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, led the Spurs to victory. Duncan finished with 19 points and four rebounds while Parker finished with 15 points and five assists. Marcus Morris led Houston with 20 points, most of those in the second quarter.

In the first quarter, the Spurs came out firing as they shot 67% from the field and even held a 10-point lead at one time. Unknown camp invitee Gani Lawal got the crowd in an uproar with a block on Luis Scola. The Spurs put together a 7-0 run when Lawal was put into the game as he helped protect the rim with his lengthy frame. At the end of the first, the Spurs led 30-24.

Duncan led the second quarter as he was able to ease the offense into transition. Lawal also gave the fans something to cheer for as he finished on an and-one opportunity during a fast break. With 5:55 remaining in the second quarter, the Rockets quietly took the lead from the Spurs to take a 53-51 edge into halftime.

Unknown Frank Hassell, yes Frank Hassell, alongside James Anderson, Cory Joseph, and Tiago Splitter helped the Spurs create a 6-0 run that sent them with a 78-72 lead to end the third quarter.

“I watched them the whole time. The whole time that game went on I watched them,” said Popovich after the game on his two big men prospects trying to earn a permanent spot on the team.

The fourth quarter consisted of some of the younger players and Ford getting their minutes in; as rookie Joseph really impressed in scoring seven points and helping the team go ahead by 10 points. A timeout was called with 2:42 remaining and the Rockets came out firing as they put together a late 10-2 run. That’s when Leonard had the ball in his hands; he stepped back to the left and hit the game winning shot.

This concludes the shortened preseason for the Spurs. The team will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday December 26 to open the 66-game regular season.

Rookie Report

Kawhi Leonard finished with four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes of action. After the game, Leonard said, “I’m just taking it day by day,” in reference to becoming more acclimated to the NBA.

Cory Joseph finished with seven points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal while shooting 50% from the field in 14 minutes of playing time. After the game, coach Popovich commented on Joseph’s comfort level, “He was a lot more comfortable than the first game in Houston,” said Popovich, “he did some good things. He was more aggressive and more comfortable on both ends of the court, so that was nice to see.”

Rockets point guard Jonny Flynn also commented on Joseph’s play, “He’s just taking it in right now.” Flynn also told me that he and Joseph share the same agent so they have an open communication line with each other.

The unknown big men

Unknown big men Gani Lawal finished with three points, one block, and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Frank Hassell finished with two points, one steal, and two rebounds in 15 minutes of game time.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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