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Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol help San Antonio Spurs stop Phoenix Suns

By Jerry Brown, The Sports Xchange
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2). UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/f35ad833e6fc5779167d2bc58e699542/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2). UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher | License Photo

PHOENIX -- The deep and talented San Antonio Spurs know that teams will make a run at them on the road. But they are well-rested and well-prepared for any and all comers, as the pesky Phoenix Suns found out Thursday.

Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol scored 18 points apiece and the Spurs used a 21-3 run in the fourth quarter to put away the Suns 107-92 for their 14th win in 15 road games this season.

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LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs (21-5), who have won three in a row overall. San Antonio played on the road for the first time since taking its only away defeat, 95-91 at the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 8.

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"We have such a deep group; we don't play our guys a lot of minutes so we're able to sustain our effort for the whole game," Gasol said. "When teams ramp it up and make their runs and even get ahead, it's hard for them to sustain that. Our second halves and our fourth quarters are strong because we keep coming until we break the game open."

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The Spurs had 16 turnovers in the first three quarters, but cleaned things up during their decisive run.

"We finally took care of the ball. It's tough to score when you keep giving it away," Spurs coach Greg Popovich said. "The defense took over and we got the ball inside to Pau and LaMarcus.

"The Suns are young and game and they never gave in for a minute. Maybe our experience was show a little bit on the sides down the stretch."

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Aldridge, who sat out the home win against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, had nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

"I was just trying to find a rhythm," Aldridge said. "Our guys came down in the fourth and played better."

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Devin Booker had 17 points and Eric Bledsoe added 14 for the Suns (8-18), who hung with the Spurs for three quarters before falling victim to the decisive run.

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Down by nine late in the third quarter, the Suns rallied and took their last lead at 77-76 on a Leandro Barbosa 3-point play with 10:08 left.

But Phoenix scored only one basket over the next six minutes while the Spurs ran away and stretched their lead to 17 at 97-80 on an Aldridge hook shot with 4:19 left.

"They run their sets and it feels like when the pressure is on them, they run them even more crisply," Suns forward Jared Dudley said. "It's deflating when teams go on runs but we have to embrace that fourth-quarter pressure. That's when you have to pass the ball extra, set up a great shot and don't get discouraged."

Phoenix coach Earl Watson said his team just ran out of gas.

"It looked like we just hit a wall. Maybe it was the two overtime games we played this week, I'm not sure," he said. "They gave all they could; some games end up like this."

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The Spurs dominated the back half of the first and second quarters to build a halftime lead.

All five Suns starters scored to help the Suns build an early 14-7 lead. But the Spurs answered with a 14-2 run, with Dewayne Demond's alley-oop dunk off a Patty Mills feed giving San Antonio a 21-16 lead.

The Spurs took a 23-20 lead to the second period before Jared Dudley had five points during a 19-8 spurt, with a Tyson Chandler dunk off a Bledsoe assist giving the Suns a 39-33 lead with 4:45 left.

Again, the Spurs closed with a flourish, outscoring the Suns 18-4 from there. Leonard had 10 of his 14 first-half points in the quarter and a Marquese Chriss goaltending call with 8.1 seconds left gave San Antonio a 51-43 lead at the break.

The third quarter was a reversal. The Spurs took their biggest lead at 68-59 on a Mills 3-pointer with 3:01 left, but the Suns finished strong with a 13-5 run down the stretch.

Booker had eight points in the quarter for the Suns, who trailed 74-71 after three.

NOTES: The Suns played without C Alex Len (hip) and F T.J. Warren (head). ... C Tyson Chandler is the only player in Suns history to record back-to-back games with 20 or more rebounds (twice). He entered the game with 44 rebounds in the past two games against the New Orleans Pelicans (21 on Sunday) and New York Knicks (23 on Tuesday). At 34, Chandler is averaging 12.2 rebounds per game. The six players who averaged 12 rebounds or more a game beyond their 34th birthday are all Hall of Famers (Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, Dikembe Mutombo, Robert Parish, Dennis Rodman and Bill Russell). ... The Suns have played five overtime games, the most ever 25 games into a season. The most they have played in a season is nine (2010-11). The Spurs' 13-0 start on the road was the second-best road winning streak to start a season in NBA history. The Warriors were 14-0 on the road to start 2015-16

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