SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are back home and beginning to show signs of returning to their old form.
Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and San Antonio punctuated a return from a nearly monthlong road trip with its largest home victory of the season, 112-85 over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was hoping for better ball movement from his team over the final two months of the regular season. And the Spurs showed glimpses of the crisp passing that was the staple of their fifth NBA championship last season.
Aron Baynes had an uncontested dunk in the third quarter after Manu Ginobili gave up a 3-point attempt to fire a no-look touch pass into the lane.
“I think for moments today,” Ginobili said. “We did it well.”
It couldn’t come at a better time for San Antonio, which is seventh in the Western Conference. The Spurs have won three straight.
Tony Parker had 19 points and three assists, driving into the paint and probing the interior defense or kicking it out to San Antonio’s 3-point shooters. Parker was 8 for 14 from the field and had just one turnover in 25 minutes.
“(Parker) was more aggressive,” Popovich said. “We saw his floater a few times and he shot jumpers. He looked like he was more aggressive. That’s what we have to have from him.”
The Spurs shot 53 percent from the field and were 10 for 23 on 3-pointers.
San Antonio had five players in double figures and everyone scored.
The Spurs got off to a fast start in their first home game since returning from their annual rodeo road trip. The team for years has been forced out of its home court for much of February because the AT&T Center hosts a rodeo.
Leonard made his first three attempts, including a 3-pointer on a catch-and-shoot that gave the Spurs a 9-2 lead. He finished with 19 points in the first half, which was a career-high in the opening quarters.
“It’s a big adjustment for me, creating your own shot and creating shots for your team,” Leonard said. “I’ve still got to improve.”
Leonard showed off his whole game with a series of jumpers, drives and dunks while shooting 9 for 11 from the field. His evening included a monstrous one-handed dunk over DeMarcus Cousins late in the third quarter that stunned the sold-out crowd into a brief silence before erupting in awe.
Cousins had 14 points for the Kings on 5 for 12 shooting but was limited to three rebounds in a frustrating outing.
Sacramento had 20 points in the paint before Cousins was forced to sit midway through the first half after collecting his third foul.
The Kings scored just five points after his exit as San Antonio closed the first half on a 21-7 run.
“When he got in foul trouble in the first half, I think that gave San Antonio that inner confidence,” Sacramento coach George Karl said. “He makes us better offensively, but with (Cousins) on the court defensively, statistically, you don’t get much done.”
Kings: Karl and Popovich are the only active coaches with at least 1,000 victories. Karl is sixth all-time with 1,134 wins and Popovich is ninth at 1,004. ... Cousins looked incredulously at the officials after having his layup attempt blocked by Tiago Splitter. Cousins would later yell at official Eli Roe before turning to official Brian Forte and screaming at him as he walked off the court following his third foul.
Spurs: Leonard, Parker, Splitter, Tim Duncan and Danny Green started for the third consecutive game. The team’s projected starting lineup has played in just nine games together this season due to injury and coach’s decision, going 7-2. ... Duncan had six rebounds, breaking his tie with Nate Thurmond for ninth in career rebounding. He has 14,470, which trails Kevin Garnett’s 14,506 for eighth all-time. ... Duncan had three blocked shots, leaving him two shy of tying Knicks legend Patrick Ewing for sixth all-time in career blocks at 2,894. ... Demonstrating again how he never shows favoritism, Popovich during the first half screamed at Duncan and Ginobili to get their heads out of their behinds.
COUNT ME OUT
If the NBA opts to extend its season into July to ease the wear on its players as some have speculated, the league can count Popovich out.
“I think the season is long enough,” Popovich said. “I will not come to work in July.”
What if it’s the Spurs are playing in the NBA Finals in July?
“If there is a game in July, count me out,” Popovich said. “Count me out. Count me out. Life is too short.”
Kings: Visit Orlando on Friday.
Spurs: Host Denver on Friday.