LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard tallied 29 points as the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 103-96 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Tony Parker delivered 27 points for the Spurs, who eliminated the Grizzlies by winning the Eastern Conference series in six games.
“He is playing at an MVP level and I hope he can keep it going because we are going to need him in the next round,” said Parker of teammate Leonard.
The Spurs next face the Houston Rockets in a best of seven series that gets underway on Monday.
Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan delivered 32 points as the Toronto Raptors rebounded after blowing a 25-point second half lead to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 92-89 to reach the second round.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio, who won for the first time in Memphis this season.
The Grizzlies got 26 points from Mike Conley and 18 from Marc Gasol. This was Conley’s fifth straight game with 20 points or more.
Zach Randolph finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
San Antonio survived a strong challenge from Memphis by outrebounding the Grizzlies 46-28.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Memphis was a good test and now his team is better prepared to go on a long postseason run.
“One thing I do like is Memphis is a heck of a defensive team and they play rock ‘em, sock ‘em. That gets you ready for anybody you are going to play,” Popovich said.
“This was a chance for a lot of our guys who haven’t been with us a long time to see how it works in the playoffs. The kind of tenacity … and that anything can happen. We have had big leads, other teams have had big leads, and you lose them. It is tough, people are hungry, they want to win.”
Parker’s best playoff game
Veteran Parker shot 78.6 percent from the field (11-of-14), the best he’s ever shot in a postseason game.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and my teammates were setting great picks for me,” France’s Parker said.
In Milwaukee, the Raptors used a 9-0 surge late in the fourth quarter at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center arena to win the first-round Eastern Conference series, eliminating the Bucks in six games.
Toronto advances to face the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, a rematch of last season’s East finals.
DeRozan led the way for Toronto on Thursday. He made 12-of-24 from the field, including a highlight reel dunk with 48 seconds remaining. Kyle Lowry added 13 points for the Raptors.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 47 minutes, but made just seven of 13 attempts from the free-throw line. The Bucks made only 18 of their 28 foul shots.
The Raptors led by as many as 25 in the third quarter before Milwaukee finally got their act together. The Bucks closed the quarter on a 15-3 run to make it a 74-61 game heading to the fourth.
Toronto led by six in the fourth when Serge Ibaka drew his fourth foul, but a 14-0 Milwaukee run put the Bucks up 80-78 with just over three minutes to play.
Jason Terry nailed a long range three-pointer to make it a one-possession game with 16 seconds left but DeRozan closed it out from the foul line.