“That was the most stifling defense that we’ve faced all year long,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Following that 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,” he 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 four of 28 attempts from 3-point range, and that was their fatal undoing in a 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 by the Spurs in a postseason game (min. 20 attempts) since Popovich’s first full season in 1997.
As for 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. The other instance was Game 3 of the 2017 Finals.
Andre Iguodala also chipped in by making 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, his second-most second-half points 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 do with Kawhi Leonard indefinitely residing in New York.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr harped on turnovers before the game, saying it was one of his main critiques of Saturday’s double-digit win, in which his team tallied 18 turnovers. “We got very careless with the ball in transition,” he said.
His team then recorded seven in the opening quarter Monday, one shy of the most in a first quarter since Kerr took over in 2014.
Then 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 Aldridge to 2-of-8 shooting as his primary defender.
Aldridge turned the tide immediately, making four of his first five shots when matched up with McGee. He scored 17 points in the first half, 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 and 10 rebounds. But when his teammates fired from deep, they kept coming up short, including on many uncontested looks.