SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The San Antonio Spurs demonstrated they are perfectly capable of rallying in the final quarter to win without Kawhi Leonard.
Fortunately, they don’t have to get used to it.
Manu Ginobili had 19 points, David Lee added 18 points and 10 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs rallied while Leonard rested to beat the Sacramento Kings 114-104 on Wednesday night.
San Antonio (50-13) won its ninth straight and extended its league record for 50-win seasons to 18 straight.
“We definitely (have) shown that the team has a lot of character in the last few games,” Spurs center Pau Gasol said. “I think the team realized that as much we have fought the last few games to win to close games that could have gone either way against pretty good teams. If we come out tonight and lose this one, it would be a tough blow.”
The Spurs rested Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge after the team rallied in four straight games, including a pair of overtime victories. Leonard averaged 33.8 points in 39.3 minutes in leading the Spurs to those come-from-behind victories.
Sacramento took advantage of their absence in building a 28-point lead in the first half. It was the largest deficit in the first quarter the Spurs have rallied from in the franchise’s regular-season history.
“This was a character test at halftime,” said San Antonio’s Patty Mills, who added 17 points. “We could have just laid down and got ready for a big one tomorrow night (at Oklahoma City), but we crawled back in it. Just goes to show the character we have within the group.”
The Spurs shot 26 percent in scoring 15 points in the first quarter, one shy of its season low for the opening period. They rallied in the second half, outscoring the Kings 66-41 after halftime.
“They just picked up their physicality,” Sacramento veteran Darren Collison said. “They got us off our spots. It was hard for us to have the same continuity we had in the first half. You’ve got to give them credit, that’s what they’re known for.”
The Kings lost their sixth straight despite a season-high 26 points from Tyreke Evans and 15 from rookie Skal Labissiere.
San Antonio’s first lead came with 6:27 remaining in the game on a 3-pointer by Mills.
Danny Green added 14 points and made four 3-pointers, as did Mills.
“In a perfect world, you don’t get down by 28 or 29 points, but we’re always going to keep fighting as a team,” Lee said. “We have great team chemistry. It’s not going to be a situation of finger-pointing or anything like that. Instead everyone is rallying around each other.
The Spurs finished with 33 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Kings: Sacramento has lost nine straight to San Antonio, including eight consecutive games at the AT&T Center. The Kings last victory was Nov. 15, 2014 at home and their previous win in San Antonio was Jan. 20, 2012. . G Buddy Hield has scored in double figures in five of his past six games. … G Arron Afflalo had scored in double figures in six straight games. . Labissiere’s previous season high was 12 points against Denver on Feb. 23.
Spurs: Leonard has missed six games this season, including two for rest. The All-Star forward has also sat out two games due to a stomach ailment, one for sore left hand and another for a bruised quadricep. … Aldridge has also missed six games, sitting out three for rest, two due to a sore right knee and one for a stomach ailment. . Ginobili picked up his first technical foul since 2011 with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter after pleading for a foul from official Kane Fitzgerald. … San Antonio is 50-13, its third best record after 63 games. The Spurs set the top mark at 53-10 last season and were 51-12 in 2011.
Popovich was taken aback when asked if Leonard and Aldridge would play against Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
“No, we’re going to leave them out a week and a half, give them some rest,” Popovich said before quickly exiting the interview room.
No one is close to the Spurs 50-win season mark. The Los Angeles had 12 straight from 1979-1991 and Dallas had 11 from 2000-2011.
“It’s incredible,” said Gasol, who signed with San Antonio in the offseason. “It speaks highly of the organization. It’s unbelievable the consistency that this team has been able to achieve.”
Kyle Anderson exited the game late in the fourth quarter after falling to the floor clutching his leg. Anderson said he was fine after the game.
Anderson finished with nine points and four rebounds.
Kings: Host Washington on Friday night.
Spurs: At Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
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