LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard tallied 27 points as the San Antonio Spurs clinched their 19th straight playoff berth and remained unbeaten at home with a 97-81 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The Spurs overcame a sloppy first half before running away with it in the second as they improved to 29-0 at home to stretch their record for the best home start by an NBA Western Conference team.
“It was very good,” said coach Gregg Popo¬vich. “We allowed 30 points in the second half.
“It’s pretty special if you can do that. We played a better second half for sure.”
It was the Spurs’ first game at the AT&T Center arena since February 6 because of their annual Rodeo Road Trip, during which their performance was outstanding.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 23 points and a team-high 10 rebounds for the Spurs as four of their starters finished in double figures.
Tim Duncan had 12 points and eight rebounds and Tony Parker scored 10 points for San Antonio, whose 19 straight playoff appearances ties the Boston Celtics (1951-69) for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history.
It’s the fewest games needed to punch their playoff ticket in franchise history, excluding strike-shortened seasons.
The Spurs own the second-longest active playoff streak among the four major professional sports, trailing only the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings (24).
The Spurs threw up a defensive curtain in the third quarter as Detroit shot just 22 percent from the floor and trailed by as many as 17 points. Aldridge scored 13 points in the period.
The victory also allowed the Spurs to lengthen their regular-season home victory streak to 38 games, dating back to an overtime loss to Cleveland last March.
Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris scored 16 points each to lead Detroit while reserve Aron Baynes added 12 points and Reggie Jackson tallied 11. Andre Drummond grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds for the Pistons, who had saw four-game winning streak halted.
“San Antonio plays great defense but we were very individual on offence in the second half,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Lowry leads Raptor charge
The Raptors guard Kyle Lowry led with a game-high 32 points as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Utah Jazz 104-94 for their franchise-best 11th straight home win.
Lowry shot 13-for-20 from the field while adding four rebounds and five assists.
DeMar DeRozan added 31 points and five rebounds while shooting 11-for-15 from the field as the Raptors earned a split of the season series with the Jazz. Forward Terrence Ross came off the bench to score 11 points.
James Harden delivered a versatile performance, carrying the cold-shooting Houston Rockets to a 100-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center.
Harden finished with 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, with his final assist coming with 51 seconds left via a corner three-pointer from Patrick Beverley that gave the Rockets a 97-95 lead.
The red-hot Boston Celtics captured their 12th consecutive home win as they took the wind out of the Trail Blazers.
The Celtics went on a 41-15 surge in the last three minutes of the first half and through the third quarter en route to a 116-93 victory over Portland.
Boston ended the Trail Blazers’ six-game road winning streak and handed them only their third loss in their last 15 games.
The home winning streak is Boston’s first 12-game one since 2007. It also was the 15th victory in the past 19 games overall for the Celtics, who trailed by 12 points in the first quarter before coming from behind.