Spurs to start Jonathan Simmons over Kawhi Leonard for Game 2

San Antonio Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons is starting in place of Kawhi Leonard in Tuesday night’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he thinks he’ll list Leonard as questionable for Game 3 after ruling Leonard out for Game 2 with a sprained left ankle caused by what Popovich described as a “dangerous” and “unsportsmanlike” closeout by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia.

Leonard had an MRI on Monday and Popovich had no timetable on when his star player would be able to return to action.

“The thing that worries me is he did it again,” Popovich said. “So one would logically think maybe it will take longer, but I’m hoping that’s not true and that we’ll have him for Game 3. But I don’t know. And I don’t think we’ll know until Friday or Saturday.”

Leonard left Game 1 on Sunday after re-injuring his tender left ankle in the third quarter when Pachulia’s foot slid under Leonard’s following a jumper by the All-Star forward.

The play happened in front of the Spurs bench and Popovich was angry at the time and even more upset a day after San Antonio’s 113-111 loss to the Warriors.

Leonard scored 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting in nearly 24 minutes to go with eight rebounds and three assists. He made all 11 of his free throws.

Kawhi Leonard ruled out of Game 6 vs. Rockets

HOUSTON — Despite insisting that he would play, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out of Game 6 against the Houston Rockets because of a left ankle injury, coach Gregg Popovich said Thursday.

“Kawhi’s out,” Popovich said. “He’d rather play.”

Jonathon Simmons will start in Leonard’s place against the Rockets on Thursday night.

Popovich said earlier in the day that Leonard would be a game-time decision. Leonard was walking slowly but without a noticeable limp, as he arrived at the team’s shootaround in Houston on Thursday morning.

“It’s not an empirical formula,” Popovich said after practice. “You watch, you feel, you talk to the player and you come to a decision. Going to take as much time as possible, see what he feels like, see what I see and make a decision.”

By sitting out, Leonard, who is averaging 27.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting during the playoffs, would have more time to heal before a potential Game 7 or the Western Conference finals. The Rockets are 17-5 at home when facing elimination over the last 25 postseasons, the best record in the NBA in that span.

The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Reserve point guard Patty Mills, who is filling in for injured starter Tony Parker, said earlier in the day that Leonard’s potential absence shouldn’t alter San Antonio’s focus headed into Thursday’s matchup at the Toyota Center.

“It shouldn’t change anyone else’s mindset,” Mills said. “Everyone did a great job of executing their roles last game. It should be the same. It has to be the same.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Spurs were 4-0 in games without Leonard and Parker this season.

Leonard sat out much of the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday and didn’t take the court for overtime after he came down on the foot of James Harden while turning to run up the court with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

He limped to the bench during the next stoppage in play, retied his shoe and re-entered the game, but he was largely ineffective on both ends of the floor.

Throughout Game 5, Leonard also appeared to be nursing a sore right knee, as he returned to the bench on multiple occasions to have athletic trainers tend to the injured area.

Kawhi Leonard returns to the Spurs; LaMarcus Aldridge is uncertain

SAN ANTONIO — Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard made his return Monday, as the team hosted the Atlanta Hawks at the AT&T Center, after spending four days going through the NBA’s concussion protocol.

The outlook for power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, however, remains uncertain after he underwent a battery of medical tests Monday, after experiencing an episode of minor heart arrhythmia over the weekend.

“We’re just gonna wait until he comes back and assess everything,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said regarding Aldridge. “I think he’ll be back either tomorrow morning or tonight — I don’t know which.”

In other injury news, point guards Tony Parker (back) and Dejounte Murray (groin) remained out.

Despite the uncertainty regarding Aldridge’s immediate future, the Spurs received some positive news in Leonard’s quick procession through the league’s concussion protocol. Leonard attended the team’s shootaround Monday morning at the Spurs’ practice facility. The forward emerged from the locker room for pregame warm-ups just minutes before Popovich held his pregame news conference.

Leonard and Aldridge sat out of San Antonio’s pivotal win Saturday over the Golden State Warriors.

Leonard suffered the injury Thursday in the Spurs’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Leonard suffered a blow to the left side of his head by Victor Oladipo as the Thunder guard flailed his arms after losing the ball on a drive to the basket.

Leonard connected on a pair of free throws at the 2:29 mark of the third quarter in that game before walking off the court to the locker room with a trainer, only to never return to the floor. The club originally anticipated that Leonard would not go into the NBA’s concussion protocol but changed course after performing additional evaluations.

Leonard’s injury came during a contest that a few Spurs described as “chippy” due to the physicality between the teams.

As for Aldridge, the power forward wasn’t at the team’s facility during morning shootaround or at the AT&T Center for Monday’s game, as he was completing a series of medical tests.

Popovich said Saturday that Aldridge complained of “feeling odd” after Thursday’s loss at Oklahoma City.

“We just don’t know the extent of LaMarcus’s health and situation,” Spurs center Pau Gasol said Monday morning. “I guess we’ll take it one game at a time, and we’ll all just try to adjust from there. Hopefully, he’ll be back with us soon and at full strength and full health, which is the most important.”

As a rookie in 2007, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Aldridge received a diagnosis of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is an abnormality of the heart’s electrical system that can cause an abnormal heartbeat and dizziness.

Aldridge sat out the final nine games of that season with the Portland Trail Blazers after undergoing a minor procedure to correct the issue. Aldridge experienced a recurrence of the condition at the start of the 2011-12 season after it was discovered during a preseason checkup with a cardiologist — which he has had every year since he was diagnosed with WPW — and underwent a radiofrequency catheter ablation. That’s the same treatment Aldridge received in 2007 after he was diagnosed with WPW.

Still, Aldridge was able to return to action just 10 days later for a preseason outing against the Utah Jazz.

“He’s a great player,” Spurs reserve David Lee said. “He’s one of our cornerstones right now, a guy that gets a lot of isos in the post and can do a lot of things for us and demand double-teams and things like that. So we’re definitely going to have to do it by committee. But I think that it’s something that we’re gonna be capable of doing. It’s gonna take every one of our big stepping up and Coach being a little creative with the rotations.”

Kawhi Leonard’s scoring spree continues in win vs. Cavaliers

The San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers kicked off the Saturday Showcase on ABC with an overtime thriller. The Spurs improved to 4-0 on the road against the Cavaliers, Warriors and Rockets — the other top-four teams in the NBA — this season.

Saturday was the first time this season that the Cavaliers lost when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. They were 26-0 in those games entering this matchup. Kawhi Leonard’s offensive dominance late in the game was a big reason for the Cavaliers’ first such loss of the season.

Kawhi continues to score at will

Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, and it was his first career 40-point game. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, his most after the third quarter in his career.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Leonard is the fifth player to record his first career 40-point game against LeBron James, joining Victor Oladipo, Jeff Green, Paul Millsap and Richard Jefferson.

This is the second time in four games that Leonard has scored more than 35 points. He did not do so once in the first 361 games of his career. He has scored 30 points in six consecutive games, tied for the third-longest streak in Spurs history. Hall of Famer George Gervin has the two longest 30-point streaks in team history: a 10-game and a nine-game streak in 1979-80.

Leonard could not limit LeBron James’ scoring, but he was able to contain James’ ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. James scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting with Leonard as his primary defender, but the Cavaliers were 0-for-5 on passes from James when Leonard started and finished the possession as his primary defender. Two of James’ seven turnovers came with Leonard as his primary defender.

LeBron’s late-game heroics fall short

James did everything he could to come out with the win in the fourth quarter, but his teammates came up short. He scored 10 of the team’s 18 points and was 3-of-4 from the floor, including a 3-pointer. The rest of the team was 3-for-16 from the floor and made one of nine attempts from beyond the arc. James’ teammates went 0-for-4 off his passes in the fourth quarter.

The 3-pointer James made in the fourth was from 30 feet out. He is 2-of-3 on 30-foot game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime this season. He had been 0-of-5 on such shots entering this season.

James has two of the three 30-foot game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime in the NBA this season. His first of the season was a 32-footer against the Bucks on Dec. 20. Andrew Wiggins has the only other such field goal.

James falls to 18-22 against the Spurs in his career (regular season and playoffs), his worst record against any opponent. The only other team against which he has a below-.500 record is the Nuggets (11-13).