SAN ANTONIO -- Things tend to get testy when the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat square off, and the team that adapts best to the way the game is going to be called and takes advantage of the opportunities that physical play can provide is the one that comes out on top.
Such was the case Monday, when the fur was flying at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard played through the rough stuff to score 24 points, including five straight in a key stretch of the fourth quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Spurs outlasted Miami 94-90 at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio held an 86-81 lead with 2:22 to play after seven consecutive points in a minute-and-a-half span by the Heat's Dion Waiters.
However, Leonard hit a free throw, reserve guard Patty Mills added two more from the charity stripe and forward LaMarcus Aldridge corralled a key offensive rebound to push the Spurs to the victory. San Antonio converted five of its six free-throw attempts in the final minute.
"Miami is a team that gets after it -- they play physical; that's their style," Spurs center Pau Gasol said. "You have to play through contact. You have to know who you're playing against and adapt and match their aggressiveness and try to hurt them with execution. You can't expect calls.
"They did their job and we did ours, and we won."
Aldridge added 18 points, all in the first half. San Antonio (8-3) also got 12 points from Gasol. Guard Tony Parker hit for 11 points, and Mills added 10. The Spurs committed a season-high 17 turnovers.
"We lost focus in the third quarter with eight turnovers -- their pressure was good and we didn't react to it very well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We tried to dribble too much, the ball didn't move around, and Miami got back in the game."
The Heat (2-7) dropped their fifth straight game. Miami was led by Waiters' 27 points (on 26 shots), while center Hassan Whiteside had 23 points and 17 rebounds, and reserve guard Tyler Johnson scored 11.
"I'm just trying to be aggressive, just trying to lead out there and pick up the energy," Waiters said. "We were right there, but we just couldn't find ways at the end. We're making mental mistakes that we can't afford from a young team -- we all have to be locked in the whole game."
The Heat continues to be without point guard Goran Dragic, who has missed the past two games due to a sprained ankle.
"We came out here and battled," Whiteside said. "We are a better team than our record. We are still one of the league's top five defensive teams. We were pushing the pace more tonight, and we played with a lot of energy."
The Spurs got points from just three players in the first quarter -- Leonard (with 10), Aldridge (eight) and Parker (seven) -- but that was enough to stake San Antonio to a 25-19 lead after 12 minutes of play.
San Antonio outscored the Heat 12-2 in the first four minutes of the second quarter and built its lead to 37-21. Miami hit just one of its five field-goal attempts and had three turnovers in that swoon. The Spurs settled for a 55-40 halftime lead, with Aldridge leading the way with 18 points in the half and Leonard racking up 13 before intermission.
The Heat got 13 points and eight rebounds from double-double machine Whiteside in the first 24 minutes.
San Antonio had difficulty putting away the Heat in the third quarter, thanks mostly to ragged shooting (6 of 23 from the floor) and no points from either Aldridge or Leonard. Two free throws by backup guard Josh McRoberts with 7.7 seconds to play brought Miami to within 71-60 and set the stage for a contentious final period.
"The second half was probably one of our better defensive halves of the season," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's about as well as we've been connected and about as hard as we've competed on that end against a well-skilled and well-schooled offensive team. We cannot get obsessed with the result because we did a lot of good things -- we have to continue to put together these building blocks."
The Spurs led 73-66 and were looking for a final push when Leonard took over. He had a 3-pointer, a pair of defensive rebounds and added a fallaway jumper to expand the San Antonio lead to 78-66. Meanwhile, the Heat went more than four minutes without scoring.
Spurs reserve center Dewayne Dedmon sprained his left knee late in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
NOTES: The Spurs have won at least seven of the first 10 games in 13 of the past 20 seasons. San Antonio is leading the Southwest Division and is third in the Western Conference. ... The Spurs have played just one game with their projected starting lineup. ... The Heat and Spurs met for the second and final time during the regular season. On Oct. 30, San Antonio posted a 106-99 win in Miami. ... Miami C Hassan Whiteside has grabbed double-figure rebounds in each of the first nine games, marking the longest double-figure rebound streak to begin a season in team history. He is also the only player in the NBA with double-digit rebounds in every game this year.