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Notes and Observations from Spurs’ victory over Heat

AT&T CENTER – Despite losing Monday in Charlotte after leading by 23 points at one time against the Hornets, the San Antonio Spurs continued two streaks Wednesday at the AT&T Center where they blew out the Miami Heat by 24 points.

First, the Spurs kept their home winning streak alive at 36-0, while they also improved to 11-0 in games following a loss this season. Kawhi Leonard matched a season and career high with 32 points in 24 minutes, but a right quad contusion sidelined him for the remainder of the game in the third quarter, while rookie Boban Marjanovic set a new career high with 19 points in just 13:33 minutes. Here were a few notes and observations from the Spurs’ 60th win of the season.

Spurs remain undefeated following a loss

It’s not just that the Spurs are winning in games after losses, it’s even more about how much they’re winning by in those 11 games. As you can see from the chart below, the Spurs have only won one game this season after a loss that ended up in single digits, while the other 10 wins have all been by double digits, with nine of their 11 wins being by 15 or more points.

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Leonard’s Efficient Night

With Luol Deng (sore left quad) out Wednesday, arguably Miami’s best perimeter defender, Miami didn’t have an answer for Leonard, as he came out firing right out of the gate. Whether it was from beyond the arc, in the mid-range game, driving, or getting to the free throw line, the only thing that was able to prevent Leonard from setting a new career high in scoring was the quad contusion he suffered in the third quarter.

The last time Leonard scored his career high 32 points was on the opening night of this season in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, check out the two stat lines and how Leonard was able to do most of his damage in 11 less minutes.

10/28/2015 vs. OKC: 32 points, 13/22 shooting, 1/3 from 3PT, 5/5 Free throws in 35 minutes

03/23/2016 vs. MIA: 32 points, 12/21 shooting, 3/7 from 3PT, 5/7 Free throws in 24 minutes

Leonard’s scoring by quarter shows you just how dominant he was Wednesday:

1Q – 10 points in 8:46 minutes

2Q – 14 points in 9:19 minutes

3Q – 8 points in 6:01 minutes

This season, Leonard is averaging 21.0 points per game in 32.8 minutes per night. Wednesday, from a Points per minute view, Leonard averaged 1.3 points for every minute he was on the floor, when you compare that to the 0.64 points he scores per minute on average during the season.

“It was real tough,” said Heat forward Justise Winslow of guarding Leonard after the game, “especially when he’s knocking down threes and everything just opens up through there. He got a lot of confidence when those early ones went in. He’s a tough matchup and so versatile. He’s a very tough guy to guard.”

When asked after the game if Leonard might miss Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich responded, “I have no idea. It just happened.”

Spurs’ Bench Rebounds

In Monday’s loss to the Hornets, the Spurs’ bench had a role in the Hornets’ comeback win, as the Spurs’ bench contributed just 18 points, eight assists and seven turnovers. Wednesday, the Spurs’ bench rebounded with a combined performance of 54 points, 15 assists and only four turnovers.

Patty Mills and Boris Diaw combined for 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but it was Marjanovic and Kevin Martin who really stood out off the bench Wednesday for San Antonio. Marjanovic contributed with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting in just 13 minutes, and while he’s had efficient scoring nights before this season, Wednesday’s production mainly came against one of the more notable defensive centers in the league in Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. Check out some of Marjanovic’s other notable high scoring games this season:

03/23/2016 vs the Heat: 19 points in 13 minutes

12/07/2015 vs the Sixers: 18 points in 17 minutes

12/28/2015 vs the Timberwolves: 17 points in 14 minutes

01/21/2016 vs the Suns: 17 points in 21 minutes

After the game, Popovich was asked about Marjanovic’s performance and Popovich’s funny/sarcastic response made the media laugh: “He’s one of the most selfish players that I’ve ever been around. He shot it every time he touched it. He should apologize to his teammates, he was so greedy, he just wanted to get his name in the paper.”

In 15:28 minutes of action, Martin scored his most points as a Spur in a single game, with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Outside of Leonard, Martin continued to draw shooting fouls, as he shot and knocked down 4-of-4 free throws. After the game, Martin spoke about how he’s becoming more comfortable in the Spurs’ system in just a few games with the team.

“Before I got here we talked about taking it slow and getting me up to speed on the plays and things like that,” said Martin. “But over the past week or so we’ve kicked it into a little higher gear, so I felt comfortable. It is all a process.”

“Well you watched him,” said Popovich of Martin Wednesday. “He’s a movement kind of basketball player. He doesn’t hold. He gets it. He learned a lot playing for (former) coach (Rick) Adelman, and he helps our guys move a little bit better. He really understands how to play.”

Popovich on Military Appreciation night:

Wednesday’s game was Military Appreciation night and after the game, Popovich commented on why he’s glad to see the NBA as a whole hosting Military Appreciation nights.

“It’s something that all the teams in the league are doing because we respect the job that those men and women do,” said Popovich. “We’re just entertainers. They’re real life people doing things that matter for all of us and our kids and our way of life, so them being honored is pretty special, and here in a military town it’s even more special, so it was great to see.”

Extra Info Bits

Wednesday the Heat became the 11th opponent the Spurs have built a 30-point lead against in their 71 games this season.

In nearly half their games this season (47.8% of their games), the Spurs’ defense has held 34 of 71 opponents below 90 points in a game, as they held Miami to 88 points Wednesday. After the game, Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra described just why the Spurs’ defense is so good this season:

“They switched a lot on the initial pick-and-rolls, so they were peeling off and it confused us at times,” said Spoelstra. “What they do is they force you to have to execute. You have to execute the details, the small things, moving the ball, moving without the ball, having poise to get to the later stages of the clock and we just didn’t get to that enough. You have to credit them a great deal for that defense they have built. That’s one of the better defenses we’ve seen.”

While improving to an undefeated 36-0 at home in the AT&T Center, most games aren’t even close for San Antonio, as they have a home point differential of +15.4 points per game.

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.