Leonard returns with 31, Spurs top Hawks, tie for No. 1 seed

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs made mistakes, missed shots and looked lost at times offensively, yet Gregg Popovich was pleased.

Overcoming a season-high 23 turnovers with a strong defensive showing kept the Spurs from getting into real trouble with their coach and the Atlanta Hawks.

Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points in his return from a concussion and San Antonio tied Golden State for the NBA's best record with a 107-99 victory on Monday night.

"I was really pleased that they continue to guard and hustle the way they did despite being sloppy with the ball," Popovich said.

San Antonio made a season-high 16 3-pointers in its 19th straight home victory over Atlanta. The Spurs and Warriors are 52-14 with 16 games remaining, including the final regular-season matchup between them on March 29.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder had 22 points and 10 assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 17 points, but the Hawks had their three-game winning streak snapped.

San Antonio's Patty Mills had 15 points and Danny Green added 14. The starting guards combined to shoot 7 for 12 on 3-pointers and the team finished 16 for 34.

David Lee had 14 points in place of LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his second straight game with a minor heart arrhythmia. Aldridge's status remains unknown.

"We just want him to get better, don't want to rush it," Leonard said. "That's something serious with his heart."

The Spurs were also without injured point guards Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray, but Leonard returned from a one-game absence after suffering a concussion in the second half against Oklahoma City last Thursday.

"I felt good," Leonard said. "Just like any other game. Our medicine team and trainers did a good job of getting me prepared."

Leonard made five straight shots, including a step-back, fadeway jumper at the close of the first quarter, after missing his first two attempts.

"Kawhi's a very special player," veteran Pau Gasol said. "It's nothing new. He's playing at a very high level. For him to come back after the mild concussion and play at this level and give us this lift, it means a lot to this team. It makes a big difference."

The Hawks cut a 15-point deficit to 89-87 on Hardaway's baseline drive and dunk, but were hurt by scoring just 21 points off the Spurs' turnovers.

"If you get turnovers, you have to get points out of them and we just didn't capitalize on that tonight," forward Paul Millsap said.


Hawks: Atlanta has not won in San Antonio since Feb. 15, 1997. ... Mike Dunleavy missed his eighth straight game with an inflamed right ankle. ... The Hawks have 15 games remaining, including seven at home, as they battle for one of the East's top four seeds.

Spurs: Popovich said Aldridge underwent further tests Monday outside of San Antonio but his status remains unknown. "No, we're just going to wait until he comes back and assess him," Popovich said. "I think he'll be back either tomorrow morning or tonight, I don't know which." ... Leonard has scored at least 19 points in his last 28 games, including 20-plus in 24 of those outings. ... Parker missed his third straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 13 games this season due to injury and sat out two others for rest.


Lee has provided the Spurs with a needed boost in the frontcourt, especially with Aldridge out indefinitely.

The 33-year-old forward was a late addition to the team's roster, signing a two-year deal worth $3.2 million on July 28. Lee had battled various leg injuries over the past several seasons, but has not missed any games this season.

"I don't want to compliment David Lee too much," Popovich said, smiling. "I don't want him to get a big head. I want to keep him angry and wondering every minute whether he might play or not. He's had a great year for us, he's played well all season long. We're lucky to have him."

Lee is averaging 7.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 65 games.


Leonard said his concussion occurred after he was hit on his jaw and near his temple.

"It was hard, but I mean you don't have to get hit hard to get a concussion," Leonard said.

"I didn't feel dizzy or like I was going to fall. I just was seeing blurry out of my left eye. I tried to shake it off. They ended up calling a timeout and it started getting really blurry. I told one of the coaches and I just went out. I got checked out."

After suffering a headache and having some sensitivity to light initially, Leonard was able to begin the concussion protocol Saturday and was cleared Monday.


Hawks: Host Memphis on Thursday night.

Spurs: Host Portland on Wednesday night.

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