The Spurs up 110-108 and the AT&T Center in a frenzy following Leonard’s triple, Rockets guard James Harden sprinted up the court and drove for the rim — only for Leonard to swat Harden’s shot against the backboard. Houston’s Nene snared the rebound, but Spurs forward Lamarcus Aldridge denied his shot, too.
The rebound fell into the hands of Leonard, who calmly sank a pair of free throws and sealed a 112-110 win over Houston.
Leonard, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week earlier Monday, recorded 39 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, his fourth straight game scoring 30-plus points.
Nene finished on a dunk after Leonard’s free throws, but the Spurs passed it around and eluded Rockets attempting to foul until the buzzer sounded.
Though unable to finish a potential game-tying layup, Harden came up sublime for his Houston squad. The superstar registered 39 points and 12 assists.
Aside from Leonard, double-digit scorers for San Antonio included guard Tony Parker (19) and Aldridge (15).
Before Leonard nailed the dagger triple, though, it was Aldridge who misfired on a fallaway jumper that would have given his team a five-point lead with roughly 90 seconds to go.
Instead, Rockets guard Eric Gordon made a trey that tied the game at 107-all with 1:20 remaining. Harden added to the lead with 1 of 2 free throws, stretching Houston’s lead to 108-107, but that’s when Leonard nailed the game-winning bomb.
The fourth period began with Spurs guard Manu Ginobili connecting on a short shot, followed by a contested triple from Mills for a four-point, 86-82 Spurs lead in the opening minutes.
The Rockets answered with seven straight of their own points, though, taking a three-point lead. They took a seven-point lead minutes later after a basket from Lou Williams.
But in keeping with the second half’s tradition, the Spurs responded with a quick 7-0 run to even things at 98-all.
Leonard then knocked down three free throws after the Rockets tallied consecutive triples, and the Spurs trailed just 104-101 with 3 1/2 minutes to play. They seized a 105-104 lead moments later after two more free throws and a high floater from Leonard, inducing a timeout with a shade over two minutes to go.
Such was how the theatric fourth frame went.
From the outset, the Rockets raced out and doubled up the Spurs early on, grabbing a 14-7 lead behind an 8-0 run that included a rainbow shot from center Clint Capela and a put-back flush from Ryan Anderson. A bucket from Patrick Beverly prompted a timeout from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich midway through the frame.
The Spurs didn’t improve immediately after the timeout. James Harden drained a pull-up 3 in Aldridge’s face to stretch the visitors’ lead to 17-7, but in a small portion of revenge, Aldridge converted on a basket on the other end.
Leonard then sunk a corner triple, but Dewayne Dedmon fouled Harden behind the 3-point line immediately after, resulting in a 3-for-3 effort that widened Houston’s lead to 20-12.
After Aldridge converted on a shot to trim his team’s deficit to 25-16, the Rockets blitzed the Spurs with a 7-0 run that saw a spinning, turnaround jumper from Anderson, a step-back from Harden and a subsequent triple from Anderson that handed his team a 33-18 advantage.
Harden punctuated the quarter with a guarded, fallaway jumper, good for a 39-23 Rockets lead headed into the second period.
Spurs center Pau Gasol kicked off some momentum for his team in the second with a wide-open triple, and he flushed one moments later to cut the Rockets’ lead to 39-28.
Houston made just three of its first 13 shots of the second, but the Spurs’ deficit continued to hover around 12. A Beverly triple was enough for a 42-30 Rockets lead, and Gordon stretched it a bucket wider with an 8-foot shot.
But the Spurs made it a game. They ripped off a 10-0 run — that included two Aldridge free throws at the 4:03 mark, San Antonio’s first of the game — stopped only by a Harden triple, but Aldridge made 1 of 2 free throws on the other end, making it a 50-43 game.
The clubs then traded scores before Ginobili drove and scored in the final 10 seconds. The Spurs entered the intermission staring up from a 54-47 hole.
Harden went on his own 5-0 spurt to kick off the third, with a 3 and two-pointer.
The scoring then went back-and-forth for the next few buckets before Danny Green knocked down a 3-ball, followed by back-to-back treys from Parker on the right side, cutting the Rockets’ lead to 69-65 halfway into the third. David Lee then threw one down off a feed from Leonard, amounting to an 11-0 run and forcing a timeout from Houston, which led by just two.
Harden then scored, but he was met immediately by a 6-0 Spurs run, capped by another Lee dunk, this one to give the Spurs a 73-71 lead — this after trailing by as many as 16.
The lead changed hands a number of times after the home team claimed the lead, but Leonard converted on a pair of free throws, his team trailing just 82-81 on the threshold of the fourth stanza.
Now winners of eight straight, the Spurs (49-13) return to action Wednesday to host Sacramento (25-37).