SALT LAKE CITY — The Spurs won again during their best regular season ever, just as Tim Duncan has done 1,000 times in his career.
Kawhi Leonard made the go-ahead jumper with 4.9 seconds left and scored 18 points as the Spurs beat the Utah Jazz 88-86 on Tuesday night, giving Duncan a milestone victory.
Rodney Hood missed the potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer as Utah fell a half-game behind Dallas for seventh place in the Western Conference. The Jazz remained in the No. 8 slot and a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets.
“They played with a lot of energy,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They were very aggressive and I thought they moved the ball much better.
“We were very lucky to win. They actually played better basketball then we did.”
LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili each added 14 points in the Spurs’ franchise-record 65th victory. They visit Golden State on Thursday.
Duncan became the third player with 1,000 victories in the regular season, following Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish. Duncan is the career leader in victories with one team.
“They are fighting for a playoff seed, so we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Leonard said. “I made a couple of defensive mistakes (in the fourth quarter) and things that we don’t do and they were able to cut the lead down to 10 after making back-to-back 3s. Then after that, they just got rolling.”
Hood finished with 23 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.
San Antonio’s bench was the difference-maker, outscoring the Jazz reserves 40-26.
“We feel like we can play with any team, especially on this home court,” Hood said. “We’ve just got to continue to grind. Just continue to find out the little things we can do to not dig ourselves such a big hole. Especially in the third quarter.”
The Spurs used a 19-2 stretch to open a 31-20 lead in the second quarter, but the Jazz didn’t roll over. Utah was held scoreless for nearly four minutes to start the second quarter, but responded with a 13-4 run to cut the lead to 35-33.
Spurs went into halftime with a 42-37 lead.
“If we commit to our defense, that can keep us in games,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Some of those games, hopefully, we cannot just stay in, we can win. But you’ve got to make shots to win. And when you don’t make shots, especially if you’re getting pretty good shots, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense.
“Frankly, we were able to sustain that until the fourth quarter. We could have folded.”
Spurs: Boris Diaw did not play due to a groin injury. … The Spurs were outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter.
Jazz: Alec Burks missed his 50th straight game due to a fractured left fibula. Snyder said, contrary to reports, Burks has not been shut down for the season.
Popovich praised Snyder’s intelligence before the game. Snyder coached the Spurs’ D-League affiliate from 2007-10.
“He’s smarter than the rest of us,” Popovich said. “That boy is like a bubble machine. He’s like the cartoon with little bubbles coming off his head all the time with ideas about lots of different stuff. Some of it I understood and some of it I didn’t. … Intelligent, but isn’t full of himself and enjoys people. He was wonderful when he was with us.”
Snyder was asked about facing the Spurs at this time of year while trying to hold onto a playoff spot. “That’s a mixed bag,” Snyder said. “We talked about the opportunity to play great teams and the opportunity to get better. Sometimes that growth is painful. When we played them earlier in the year we were just overwhelmed. Now we’re closer to full strength from a health standpoint, so you’d like to think that can have an impact. If Golden State wasn’t setting a record right now … what San Antonio is doing is equally astounding.”
Spurs: Visit Golden State on Thursday.
Jazz: Host the Clippers on Friday.