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The San Antonio Spurs (47-26) got a glimpse of their future Sunday night, as they followed the stellar play of Kawhi Leonard en route to a 103-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies (50-24).
Leonard lit up the fourth quarter with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, ending the game with 25 points — one point shy of his career high.
“We went to him and he went to himself,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich on Leonard’s exceptional play after the win. “It was a little bit of both. He was rolling and he felt it.”
Although Kawhi stole the show in the fourth quarter, the Spurs battled a gritty Memphis team for much of the game.
The closest Memphis pulled to the lead was within 4 at the end of the third quarter, before San Antonio outscored them 33-23 in the fourth.
Throughout much of the game, Memphis battled San Antonio down low with big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Randolph — or ZBo as he is known — was a consistent threat for the Grizzlies on the low post. The big man with the soft touch ended the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Gasol scored 16 points whilst grabbing six rebounds.
Fortunately for the Spurs, Tiago Splitter matched the play of both big men with some fine low post play. The Spurs’ center answered with 15 points and eight rebounds, including some flashy finishing on the back of a Tony Parker behind-the-back pass.
“They are a very physical team, really well-coached, really fundamentally sound and they stick with it,” said Popovich on Memphis play. “They just grind it out, as they say. I thought our guys did a great job of absorbing that and playing smart against the physicality and gave it back in kind. I thought Tiago in that respect was great. I thought Tony was great. He fought through some stuff and as the game went along he really ran the show well and really got us to the end.”
The victory over Memphis marks 13-out-of-16 wins for San Antonio. With the win, San Antonio finds themselves firmly in the sixth seed, while the loss pushes Memphis back from the second seed to the third.
The Spurs’ recent form suggests that the defending NBA Champions have found their rhythm going into the playoffs. And Coach Pop seems to know it, too.
“Dinner time,” said a smiling Popovich after the game.
Next, the Spurs face off against the Miami Heat (34-39) on Tuesday, March 31. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.