Kevin Durant proving to be the difference for Warriors in Round 1
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors tapped their deep reservoir of rangy defenders to strangle the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their first-round series. “That was the most stifling defense that we’ve faced all year along,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. Following the double-digit defeat, Popovich sought a simple fix. “We’ve got to have more of an attitude on the court and handle that defense a lot better than we did, basically,” Popovich said before Monday’s Game 2 at Oracle Arena.
“Shooting better would be nice, too.”
What Popovich asked for, he received, at least in part. His club’s bounce-back attitude was inspired, especially with 34 points and 12 rebounds from All-Star center LaMarcus Aldridge.
But San Antonio’s shooting? Not so nice. The Spurs connected on just 4 of 28 attempts from 3-point range, their fatal undoing in an 116-101 loss that placed the Spurs in an 0-2 hole headed back to San Antonio for Game 3 on Thursday. That 14.3 3-point percentage was the second-worst accuracy mark in a postseason game for the Spurs since Popovich’s first full season in 1997, min. 20 attempts.
And the Warriors? With star guard Stephen Curry sidelined, the Warriors rode their other two lights-out sharpshooters, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Durant poured in 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting and Thompson added 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Durant added three 3-pointers and Thompson sank five of eight.
It marked the second time that Thompson and Durant each scored 30 or more in a game for the Warriors during the regular season or playoffs. The only other instance was Game 3 of the 2017 Finals.
Andre Iguodala also chipped in with four of five attempts from deep.
After being trounced in Game 1, the Spurs fought admirably behind Aldridge, and even survived Golden State’s usual third-quarter barrage, this one a 17-5 run to start the frame.
But in the fourth quarter, the Warriors kept leaning on their stars, and Thompson and Durant produced. Thompson scored 24 points in the second half alone, his second-most points in the second half of a game in his postseason career. The defending champions stretched their lead to 19 points at its widest margin, and held on against a Spurs squad that is still trying to make due with Kawhi Leonard indefinitely residing in New York.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr had harped on turnovers before the game, saying it was one of his main critiques from Saturday’s double-digit win, when his team tallied 18 turnovers. “We got very careless with the ball in transition,” Kerr said. His team then recorded seven alone in the opening quarter, one shy of the most in a first quarter since Kerr took over in 2014.
But the Warriors calmed down, tallying just eight turnovers in the final three quarters.
The Spurs needed a dynamite performance from Aldridge after he scored just 14 points in Game 1 and was handcuffed by Warriors center JaVale McGee, who held him to 2-of-8 shooting when he was his primary defender.
Aldridge turned the tide immediately, making four of his first five shots when matched up against McGee. And Aldridge scored 17 points in the first half alone, signaling success for the Spurs, as they entered the evening with a 10-1 record when Aldridge scored 17 or more points before halftime, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Aldridge kept muscling his way to the basket in the second half, registering his seventh career playoff game with at least 30 points & 10 rebounds. But when his teammates fired from deep, they kept coming up short, including on many uncontested looks.