Kawhi Leonard has been sharp in limited minutes since his return earlier this week, but his contributions have been mostly for naught as the San Antonio Spurs have dropped consecutive games for the first time since a four-game slide early in the season. The Spurs will be without their two-time All-Star on Saturday as he sits out the tail end of a back-to-back against the visiting Dallas Mavericks.
Leonard missed the team’s first 27 games while completing his recovery from a right quadriceps injury before making his season debut Tuesday in Dallas, but his 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and six rebounds in 16 minutes were not enough to keep San Antonio from falling 95-89. Although he produced 12 points on 5-of-9 from the field over 17 minutes Friday, the Spurs’ defense gave up a season-high point total to the Houston Rockets in a 124-109 defeat. The Mavericks were unable to follow up their surprise success against San Antonio at Golden State on Thursday, as the Warriors outscored them by 15 in the second half after Dallas played the world champions to a draw through two quarters. “They’re a talented team and we let a few miscommunications let them get a run going, and we just couldn’t really stop them,” Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes told reporters.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Dallas, San Antonio)
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (8-21): Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (hip) has already been ruled out for Saturday - his fifth straight absence; Yogi Ferrell has taken on most of the rookie’s production over the last three games, averaging 13 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. Dirk Nowitzki bounced back from a 1-for-8, six-point effort versus the Spurs with 18 points against the Warriors - one shy of his season high - on 6-for-13 from the field and nine boards in 27 minutes. Barnes struggled from the field Thursday (6-for-18), but he still managed to produce his 20th double-digit scoring performance in 21 games since the beginning of November; the 25-year-old has managed at least 12 points in all but two of 29 games.
ABOUT THE SPURS (19-10): Leonard will not play back-to-backs anytime soon, and while San Antonio is obviously happy to get its star forward back, getting him back to speed can’t come soon enough for coach Gregg Popovich. “It’s a pain in the (behind) for everybody. Rotations are screwed up. If a guy is only going to play so many minutes, do you go to him the whole time to get him going and get him back in the flow? Do you just do what you usually do? It makes it a little bit tough that way,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. Tony Parker (rest) and Kyle Anderson (sprained MCL) are also expected to sit out Saturday as well, but the Spurs are hopeful Anderson can return Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
1. Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 29.3 points in three games against the Mavericks this season - his most against any opponent.
2. Following a three-game stretch in which he shot a combined 8-for-26 from the field and averaged eight points, Mavericks G J.J. Barea is averaging 15.3 points on 17-for-29 shooting over his last three outings.
3. Dallas (eight) and San Antonio (10) combined for only 18 turnovers in Tuesday’s meeting.
PREDICTION: Spurs 96, Mavericks 93