Sports

Leonard, Bertans lead Spurs to 112-80 win over Denver

SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs have not had many opportunities to play with a full and healthy roster this season, so they took advantage of the luxury Saturday night.

Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points in his return from a three-game absence, Davis Bertans had 18 and San Antonio never trailed in a 112-80 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

San Antonio won its 14th straight at the AT&T Center, improving the league's best home record to 19-2.

"We haven't had many games with everyone healthy," said forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who added 15 points. "So, it definitely felt good tonight."

The Spurs' projected starting lineup of Leonard, Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Danny Green played together for only the sixth game this season and just the second time at home.

Reserve Rudy Gay missed his eighth straight game with bursitis in his right heel, but the Spurs were just happy to have more players on the bench than in the locker room.

"It was good to have everybody," Green said. "I think the win helped guys' confidence, getting some open looks."

Green had 11 points in his return from a 10-game absence due to tightness in his left groin.

Leonard played 28 minutes in his return, shooting 5 for 8 from the field while collecting eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. After missing the season's first 27 games with right quadriceps tendinopathy, Leonard strained his left shoulder against Phoenix on Jan. 5.

"He looks confident," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "He looks confident in his body and he wasn't really winded tonight either, which surprised me. He's coming along well."

The Spurs raced to a 23-12 lead in the first quarter despite getting just one point from Leonard. San Antonio opened the game by shooting 6 for 7 on 3-pointers, including three consecutive 3s by Bertans to close that opening run.

"He's a rhythm shooter and he was feeling it," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "When you see that he gets in that type of rhythm, I think it's a good idea to just look for him."

Bertans, a second-year player included by Indiana in a trade that brought Leonard to San Antonio for George Hill, had a career-high six 3-pointers. He finished 6 for 7 on 3s.

San Antonio shot 14 for 27 on 3-pointers and 53 per cent overall while running Denver's defence ragged.

"They're not stopping, they're just moving and moving," Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic said. "Every cut is a live cut, every pass is a live pass, every shot .. They're doing the small things so good that you believe they are really going to do it."

Jokic had 23 points and nine rebounds for Denver, which has lost 10 straight in San Antonio.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver was held to 11 points in the fourth quarter, a season low in the final period for a San Antonio opponent. . Denver's last win in San Antonio was March 4, 2012, when Richard Jefferson started for the Spurs. Jefferson is now a reserve for Denver. ... F Paul Millsap missed his 27th game with a sprained left wrist. ... The Nuggets are 10-19 when allowing 100-plus points.

Spurs: Ginobili rocked back for a left-handed dunk in the first quarter. It was his fifth dunk this season, his most since having 10 in 2014. ... The Spurs have played only two home games in January, winning both. ... Bertans has had three-plus 3-pointers in 16 games, second only to Gary Neal's 24 for the most by a Spurs player in their first two seasons.

COMMEMORATING KING

Popovich was asked if commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday on Monday holds any added significance given the unusual times America is facing now.

"It makes you wonder what he would say if he was here," Popovich said. "I think if he was here, he'd have probably figured out a way to gather some people together and make a stand, so it didn't keep happening. But at this point, it's all about leadership and trying to bring people together and we just don't have a lot of that right now. Nobody was better at that than he was. He knew how to protest peacefully, but he also knew how to bring people together and get things done. We don't seem to have that right now. So, we just got to keep dealing."

RETURN TO THE COURT

Gary Harris, Denver's leading scorer, returned after missing the previous game due to what the team said were "private family matters."

"It's been a long day for me," said Harris, who flew to San Antonio on his own.

Harris had 18 points in 30 minutes.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Host Dallas on Tuesday night.

Spurs: Visit Atlanta on Monday.

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