Kawhi Leonard has been wanting the ball in his hands with the game on the line. On Wednesday he got his chance and proved by he is going to be an All-Star starter in the process.
Leonard’s jumper from the top of the key with 0.9 seconds left lifted the San Antonio Spurs to a 98-96 win over the Orlando Magic inside the Amway Center.
Leonard led the Spurs with 29 points while LaMarcus Aldridge added 21. Patty Mills chipped in 17 for the Spurs, who won their sixth straight game and second of their eight-game Rodeo Trip.
Orlando had one final chance to send the game to overtime as Elfrid Payton raced down court for a reverse layup that fell short.
“We got lucky,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “There was a pick down there and we didn’t react very well.”
San Antonio trailed 81-67 with 10 minutes to go in regulation and would rally behind strong play from Leonard, Mills and Danny Green. The Spurs outscored the Magic 31-17 in the fourth quarter and use strong defense to complete their comeback.
“We always pride ourselves on playing the whole 48 minutes of the game,” Leonard said. “We just kept pounding and fortunately everything broke for us.”
The Magic were led by Evan Fournier’s 28 points. Nikola Vucevic added 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Victor Oladipo added 14 for Orlando (23-29), who have 15 of their last 19 games.
“In key moments, we struggle to make a game-ending play or combination of plays,” Magic coach Scott Skiles said. “We could feel the Spurs picking it up (in the fourth quarter) and we didn’t react well. We started throwing them the ball and became casual.”
Tim Duncan returned for the Spurs after missing eight games with a sore knee. He finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes. Tony Parker did not play after suffering a sprained ankle in Tuesday’s win over Miami.
The Spurs are now 45-8 on the season and will have a week off for the NBA All-Star break that will see Leonard and Aldridge along with the coaching staff head to Toronto for the festivities. The team will return to the court next Thursday when they travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers to resume their Rodeo Trip.