INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points and the San Antonio Spurs clinched their NBA-record 20th consecutive winning season with a 110-106 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 10 of his 19 points during the final 6 1/2 minutes as the Spurs improved to 42-13 in the season following Tim Duncan’s retirement. They have had a winning record every season since 1997-98, when Duncan was a rookie, and broke a tie with the Utah Jazz, who had 19 straight winning seasons from 1985-2004.
Paul George scored 27 points and Myles Turner had 22 for the Pacers, who have lost four straight – three on their home court.
George’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds left cut it to 107-104, but the Spurs closed it out at the free-throw line to bounce back from their loss in New York on Sunday.
Indiana took a 95-91 lead with 5:17 left. But the Pacers missed five free throws after that and turned the ball over with 29 seconds left in a four-point game.
San Antonio looked ready to pull away when it used an 11-0 run in the third-quarter to make it 81-72.
But the Pacers closed the quarter on a 7-2 flurry to get within 83-79 and opened the fourth on an 8-1 spurt to retake an 87-84 lead on back-to-back breakaway dunks from Monta Ellis. They just couldn’t hold it against the team with the NBA’s second-best record.
Leonard has scored 30 or more points in five straight games.
Spurs: Leonard also extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to 84, the longest streak by a San Antonio player since Duncan’s 91-game streak ended in 2003. … Danny Green, Tony Parker and David Lee each scored 12 points and Dwayne Dedmon had six points and 12 rebounds. … San Antonio was 23 of 27 from the free-throw line. … Coach Gregg Popovich earned win No. 1,031, moving within 24 of Phil Jackson for sixth in league history.
Pacers: Jeff Teague had 15 points, Rodney Stuckey finished with 13 and Kevin Seraphin had 12 in his first start of the season. … Indiana has lost eight of its last nine home games against San Antonio. … Indiana was outscored 15-4 on second-chance points and 44-36 on points in the paint. … The Pacers were 21 of 30 on free throws. … Starting forward Thaddeus Young sat out again with a sprained left wrist. … C.J. Miles made one 3 to move within two of Mike Dunleavy (408) for No. 7 in the franchise’s NBA history.
LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.
Paul George never said that, though.
So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.
Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:
Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational
When you were just a kid
In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale
We were dreaming too.
While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival
And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.
Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.
The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too
Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?
My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?
That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?
Sam Amick of USA Today:
As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.
Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.
Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.
Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.
LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.
But maybe once is enough.
Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.
league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.
LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.
If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.
This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.
The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.
The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.
But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.
Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.
That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.
Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.
As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.
Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.