SAN ANTONIO – Superstar forward Kawhi Leonard is due back any day now, but the San Antonio Spurs are proving they’re among the NBA’s elite even without him.
Gregg Popovich’s men topped the Boston Celtics 105-102 Friday night thanks to a big night from power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and a 3-point dagger by veteran guard Manu Ginobili with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
The victory at the AT&T Center in San Antonio was the third straight for the Spurs (18-8), while the Celtics now have a record of 22-5 – tops in the Eastern Conference – after a rare loss.
After a tightly contested first half, the Celtics grabbed a five-point lead late in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by superstar guard Kyrie Irving and a pair of dunks by guard Jaylen Brown.
But the Spurs quickly erased that deficit at the start of the fourth quarter when Davis Bertans made a 3-pointer and Ginobili connected on two free throws.
The lead then changed hand several times before the 40-year-old Argentine connected on a long-range shot from the right wing in the waning seconds of the game.
Irving tried to answer with three seconds left, but his 3-point attempt from the right corner missed the mark.
Aldridge finished the contest with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Ginobili had 11 points off the bench for the Spurs.
Boston got a game-high 36 points from Irving and 20 points from forward Jayson Tatum.
The Spurs currently have the third-best record in the Western Conference even though Leonard has not played all season due to right quadriceps tendinopathy, a leg injury that has mystified the Spurs’ medical staff but which seems to have improved significantly in recent days.