Spurs stay hot, pull away from Heat for 95-81 win

MIAMI: Something about the Miami Heat brings out the best in Kawhi Leonard.

And with the playoffs looming, the NBA champions might be peaking.

Leonard had 22 points, nine rebounds and four steals, Tony Parker added 16 points in his 1,000th NBA game, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Heat 95-81 on Tuesday night.

Leonard was NBA Finals MVP last year against Miami, and has scored at least 20 points on at least 53 percent shooting in each of his last five games against the Heat. He excelled on both ends Tuesday, helping hold Dwyane Wade to a 6-for-20 shooting night.

nba-logoTim Duncan had 12 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which went 12-3 in March – the league’s second-best record behind only Golden State. Boris Diaw scored 11 points.

Goran Dragic had 19 points and Wade added 15 for Miami. Hassan Whiteside returned from a three-game absence because of a lacerated hand and scored 10 points.

San Antonio stayed No. 6 in the West, and could clinch a playoff berth Wednesday in Orlando.

The Heat remained in the No. 7 spot in the East, only a half-game up on No. 8 Brooklyn.

It was still a game at the half, with Miami down just 47-42. But the Spurs pulled away after the break, going up by as many as 15 in the third and then stretching it out to 21 in the fourth.

Miami closed to 85-75 on a putback by Chris Andersen with 3:32 left, but Parker hit a floater from the right baseline on the ensuing San Antonio possession and the rally try was quickly snuffed out.

San Antonio is now two wins away from its 16th consecutive 50-win season, with eight games remaining. The last time the Spurs didn’t win 50 was 1998-99, when they had a good excuse – that was only a 50-game season.

Nets beat Pacers, Pistons cruise past Hawks

NEW YORK: Lionel Hollins was surprised how quickly his team built a big lead. His players were proud of how they regrouped after blowing it.

Big games in Brooklyn were big disappointments for the home team earlier this season, but the Nets believe they are a different team now – potentially a playoff one.

Brook Lopez had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and the Nets reclaimed sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference by beating the Indiana Pacers 111-106 on Tuesday night for their season-high fourth straight victory.

The Nets rebuilt the lead to 97-85 midway through the fourth after consecutive baskets by Thaddeus Young, who returned after missing two games with a strained left knee. Indiana trimmed it to 103-100 with 2:11 remaining, overcoming a technical foul by Vogel, but Johnson nailed a jumper and then a 3-pointer.

Indiana starting guard C.J. Miles, who averaged 27 points in his previous two games, sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and played just six minutes. Reserve Rodney Stuckey, bothered by a sore right wrist, shot 1 for 8 for four points.

AUBURN HILLS: The Detroit Pistons played without Greg Monroe again on Tuesday night, and their top two point guards were limited.

They still found a way to beat the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Andre Drummond had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and the Pistons defeated the Atlanta Hawks 105-95 for their fifth victory in the last six games.

Anthony Tolliver had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Pistons (29-45), who are 6-2 since Monroe strained his right knee in practice. Reggie Jackson collected 12 points and 11 assists despite being limited to four-minute stints in each of the last three quarters by an illness.

Korver hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Atlanta the lead early in the third, but seven quick points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put Detroit back in front.

The Pistons carried a 76-72 lead into the fourth, and Jackson entered the game again despite having spent the last several minutes wrapped in hot towels. He started the quarter by banking in a 3-pointer, and Prince increased the lead to 11 with a swooping lefty dunk.

Results:

Brooklyn Nets 111 beat Indiana Pacers 106, Detroit Pistons 105 beat Atlanta Hawks 95, San Antonio Spurs 95 beat Miami Heat 81, Golden State Warriors 110 beat Los Angeles Clippers 106

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Vishnu Ravi Shankar
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