One methodical, focused and Spurs-like effort was all it took to put the Warriors back in their place a little bit. After outplaying San Antonio in the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals, the Warriors fell back some on Friday night at Oracle, and the Spurs, like the veteran, experienced team they are, pounced.
The Spurs regained control of the series with a workmanlike 102-92 win over the Warriors. Now, it’s up to the Warriors to salvage Game 4 on Sunday – lest they teeter on the brink of elimination.
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So clinical were the Spurs on Friday night that it made it difficult to remember what had the Warriors so optimistic heading into the game.
Well, there were two reasons, to start – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. But the Spurs rendered the Warriors’ backcourt rather ordinary in Game 3 – and when that happens Golden State has trouble.
With Danny Green spending much of the night attached to Curry, and Thompson struggling to get free from a variety of defenders, Golden State never once managed any kind of 3-point barrage that could get it moving.
Curry and Thompson combined to shoot 12-for-37 from the floor, and as a tandem got to the free throw line just three times. Meanwhile Spurs point guard Tony Parker was turning in a wonderful 32-point performance – on 13-for-23 from the field – and Tim Duncan (23 points, 10 rebounds) was simply the best big man on the floor.
The status of the respective point guards will be the big story heading into Sunday afternoon’s game. Both Curry and Parker were seen limping badly after the game, making their status unknown.
Curry tweaked his left ankle in the fourth quarter – but it was long after the tone of the game had been set. Curry struggled to get any open looks against the Spurs, as the long and athletic Green didn’t give him much room regardless of where the ball was on the court.
Truth be told, Curry had difficulty getting the ball before he tweaked the ankle. How he’ll be strong enough to push off of it – and get open – on Sunday is a relevant question.
Parker injured his calf during Friday’s game, but he seemed to indicate he’d be ready to go on Sunday. That Sunday game, by the way, is a 12:30 p.m., start, which would be seven hours earlier than most starts at Oracle.
If the Warriors hope to even up this series, they’ll need to find a way to keep Andrew Bogut on the court. Bogut has been effective when he’s played in this series, but in two out of three games, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich has fouled Bogut intentionally and each time it’s aided in getting the Warriors’ big man off the court.
Bogut went 1-for-6 from the foul line in Game 2, and he was just 1-for-4 from the line in game 3. Bogut’s inability to make foul shots forced Warriors coach Mark Jackson to replace him.
Without Bogut, the Spurs had a much greater advantage on the interior.
For the first time in the postseason, the Warriors looked very vulnerable and very beatable on Friday. And now, with Curry hobbling, things are starting to look dire for Golden State.
But the Warriors have responded in a big way from losses before in these playoffs. They’ll have another chance to do it again on Sunday – and they’re going to need to.