HOUSTON -- For the San Antonio Spurs, the result was rendered immaterial. Having contested the first 27 games without their best player, the Spurs were so pleased to welcome back forward Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday night that their loss to the Dallas Mavericks was essentially a footnote.
San Antonio (19-9) managed just fine without Leonard, whose quadriceps injury delayed his season debut and remains an impediment at least in terms of a minutes restriction. The Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference and their defense did not reflect the absence of a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, with San Antonio ranking third in defensive efficiency.
With the challenge of life without Leonard met, the Spurs must now tackle the task of blending their MVP candidate back into the mix. Leonard logged 16 minutes against the Mavericks, posting 13 points and six rebounds. Step two in his transition comes Friday night at Toyota Center against the Houston Rockets (22-4), who are riding an 11-game winning streak.