Leonard has 24, Spurs defense shines in 98-84 win over Suns
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs kept taking the ball away from the Phoenix Suns. Over and over. All night long.
Leonard had 24 points and 13 rebounds, and the Spurs forced 28 turnovers in a 98-84 victory over the sloppy Suns on Monday.
Phoenix was averaging 106.5 points, but was held to a season-low point total while committing a season high in turnovers. The Suns were without point guard Eric Bledsoe, who missed the second game of a back-to-back with a sore left knee.
''I don't know what we were doing just handing the ball, soft passes,'' Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''Even when we tried to lob it over, the passes were like five feet short of where it's supposed to go. That's hard to overcome.''
Tony Parker had 20 points and eight assists for San Antonio, which is off to an 11-3 start. Danny Green made four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
The turnovers led to 27 points for the Spurs, who set a season high with 18 steals.
LaMarcus Aldridge missed his second straight game with a mild sprain of his left ankle, but the Spurs were able to collect their second victory without their major offseason acquisition thanks in large part to Leonard.
Leonard had seven points, three rebounds and an assist to key a 14-2 run that put San Antonio up 61-43 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
''Kawhi Leonard was spectacular on both ends of the court,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
A pair of turnovers by Markieff Morris on successive possessions resulted a pair of fast-break baskets by Leonard. The star forward had a one-handed dunk followed by a layup that led to a technical on Hornacek, who was upset no foul was called for Morris.
Leonard later drove into the lane and kicked the ball out to Green for a 3-pointer and a 59-41 lead.
''Kawhi is one of those guys defensively, he gets after it,'' Hornacek said. ''When he's around the ball you've got to be strong with it and you've got to be able to get rid of it without getting it knocked away.''
Morris had 28 points, but was limited to just two in the final quarter. Brandon Knight added 18 points for Phoenix.
''We are coming around,'' Duncan said. ''I think defensively, we are a lot further along than offensively.''
Suns: Bledsoe and Knight entered Monday's game averaging a combined 44.2 points per game, second only to the 47.9 averaged by Golden State's All-Star backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Spurs: Phoenix's 34 points in the first half marked the sixth time San Antonio has held an opponent to less than 40 points before intermission. Last season, the Spurs held the Suns to a franchise-low 24 points in the first half on Feb. 28.
Suns: Host New Orleans on Wednesday.
Spurs: Host Dallas on Wednesday.
Popovich was not pleased to see the NBA referees' union call for Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer's suspension for making contact with an official.
Budenholzer was fined $25,000 on Monday for what the league deemed ''incidental'' contact with referee Ben Taylor on Saturday in the Hawks' 109-97 loss to Cleveland. Budenholzer, a former Spurs assistant, was ejected for bumping into Taylor during the second quarter after arguing a non-call.
The referees' union said Budenholzer should have been suspended for the contact.
''I think it's just a case of an anonymous suit trying to gain 15 minutes of stardom more than anything. It's comical,'' Popovich said of the call for a suspension.
''A lot of people try to get famous on Twitter. And I guess this particular suit is one of them.''
Popovich altered his normal rotation, inserting fan favorite Boban Marjanovic late in the first quarter and Jonathan Simmons late in the second quarter.
Both moves provided the team with a boost.
Marjanovic blocked Alex Len's layup attempt and then scored an uncontested layup after running a pick and roll with Manu Ginobili.
Simmons picked up his dribble at the free-throw line and spun into the lane to scoop in a finger roll.
Marjanovic primarily had been used in mop-up duty while playing just 17 minutes in six games entering Monday's contest.
''I wanted to give (Marjanovic) a chance to play so he doesn't die on the vine,'' Popovich said.