MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs appeared to be in trouble when Kawhi Leonard had to go to the bench in the fourth quarter after getting poked in his left eye.
The Minnesota Timberwolves sliced an eight-point deficit in half to jump back into the game. But Leonard returned just in time to help the Spurs to a much-needed win.
Leonard scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and hit a go-ahead jumper with 54 seconds to play to help the Spurs to a 100-93 victory Tuesday night.
“If you get hit in the eye, it’s going to be blurry and your eye is going to tear up a bit,” Leonard said. “I just had to wait for it to clear up a bit.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points for the Spurs, who scored 35 points off of 23 turnovers by Minnesota for a much-needed victory. Now they head home for a challenging four-game stay trailing the Golden State Warriors by 2 1/2 games for the top seed in the Western Conference.
“It looks like sometimes we need to be pushed to the limit to bring out the best in us,” Manu Ginobili said. “Sometimes we have it. Sometimes we’re going to be able to overcome that and sometimes you won’t.”
Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost four straight games to fade from playoff contention in the West. Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points and Shabazz Muhammad scored 16 of his 18 points in the second quarter.
“The intent is to try to win, but we’re mistakenly making things up, so the other guys don’t know what the other is doing, and it’s leading to mistakes,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to be able to count on each other.”
Held to just two points in the first half, Leonard scored 12 in the third and the Spurs forced 10 turnovers by the Wolves in a 31-16 frame.
The Spurs led 88-80 midway through the fourth quarter when Leonard had to go to the bench after getting whacked in the face by Gorgui Dieng. That opened the door for the Wolves, who outscored the Spurs 8-4 while their MVP candidate was on the bench.
Wiggins threw down a big dunk in traffic to ignite the rally and Towns converted a three-point play to put the Wolves up 93-92 with 2:04 to play.
Leonard responded with an 18-foot jumper and Wiggins missed a good look on the other end that would have put Minnesota back in front.
“Everyone has to play together, execute the plays that we’re known for,” Wiggins said.
Spurs: F David Lee did not play because of a sore left foot. Lee said he expected to be ready to go against Memphis on Thursday. … Leonard has scored in double figures in 97 straight games, the longest streak by a Spur since David Robinson did it in 157 straight from 1994-96. … Pau Gasol added 11 points and six boards.
Timberwolves: The team announced it will unveil its new logo on April 11. The Wolves also will get new uniforms as part of a rebrand under Nike next season.
Spurs assistant Becky Hammon reportedly is in the running for the women’s head coaching job at Florida, and coach Gregg Popovich said she has been “an integral part of what we do and been a fantastic coach for us.” A former Gator, Lee said he offered his assistance to her if she had any questions about the school.
When the Spurs hired Hammon, the belief was she may one day become the first female head coach in the NBA.
“If anybody’s going to do it, it would be her,” Lee said. “She has a great disposition.”
Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica had surgery on Tuesday to repair a fractured navicular bone in his left foot. The team said the surgery went as expected, but did not put a timetable on his return.
The Wolves signed Omri Casspi to take some of his minutes down the stretch, and he played 22 minutes in his debut on Tuesday night.
Spurs: Open a four-game homestand on Thursday against Memphis.
Timberwolves: Start a road trip in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Friday.
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