Spurs can’t get up from another Warriors haymaker
AT&T CENTER — The story was almost rewriting itself as the Warriors’ lead dwindled minute by minute in the fourth quarter. But the buildup stopped short of the final plot twist, and the Spurs failed to pull off what looked to be another potential theft of a playoff game.
But what didn’t change was the unworldly shooting of Golden State in its 100-91 Game 2 victory, a problem for San Antonio that doesn’t seem to be going away with time. They always say shooters eventually regress back to their mean, that a team can’t consistently live by the 3. Maybe history says that’s true, but if we’re watching the best-shooting backcourt duo the league has ever seen, the record books don’t apply. In fact, they’re being rewritten.
In Game 1, Stephen Curry lit the AT&T Center floor on fire. Wednesday night, Klay Thompson burned the building to the ground. The second-year shooting guard blew the game open in the first half, going for 29 points while hitting seven 3-pointers in the process before ending the game with a career high 34 points, including 8-for-9 from beyond the arc.
San Antonio went small in the second half and seemed to figure something out, but the damage had already been done.
“I have the greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game,” Mark Jackson said at the podium. “Call my bluff.”
For now, it’s not worth trying. What Curry and Thompson have done in front of the San Antonio crowd the last two games has been almost unimaginable.
“I thought it was polite of them to at least take turns and not both be on fire on the same night,” Gregg Popovich. “Maybe the next iteration is neither one of them will be hot in Game 3.
“That’s what I’m hoping.”
It’s not an unreasonable wish from a Spurs perspective. The Spurs are bound to catch this team on a cold night, aren’t they? That’s how the NBA has and always will work, right?
One would think, but through two games this series has defied all logic. Still, the Warriors dared the Spurs to repeat what they did on Monday night, and the chances to do so were there.
San Antonio cut a lead that reached 20 points with 8:33 remaining in the third to just six points with 4:23 left in the final period, but the shots that dropped on Monday bounced off the rim on Wednesday, and the energy the team finally found after the break dissipated as the minutes vanished from the scoreboard.
And what the Warriors are doing is cruel. Wherever Tony Parker is on the floor defensively, the ball is going right at him. Whether it’s Curry, Thompson or Harrison Barnes, Golden State is attacking the head of the Spurs’ snake.
Parker looks exhausted while San Antonio isn’t getting enough of anything offensively to put pressure on the Warriors. And even when the starting backcourt is contained, Jarrett Jack hits big shot after big shot in isolation situations to keep the game at arm’s length during the Spurs’ run.
But, for whatever it’s worth, the Spurs did make progress in the second half. With a combination of small-ball and an increased energy level on the defensive end, San Antonio cut away at the lead while the young Warriors looked to be crumbling again. But after Monday’s double-overtime miracle, after falling behind big once again, this team’s legs failed it.
“We were lacking the focus, the intensity, whatever you want to call it. That put us in a hole,” Tim Duncan said. “That second quarter really killed us. I don’t know what to say about it, honestly.
“We got a crew in there that found a little bit of rhythm defensively and started making stops,” he continued. “It was a good third quarter. The fourth quarter we just didn’t have enough gas to get back into it.”
And it’s a reason for optimism, however misguided it may be. The Spurs have shot the ball terribly for two consecutive games — they shot 39 percent on Wednesday, including 23 percent from deep and 66 percent from the line — and have taken two straight haymakers from Golden State. Regardless of whether their 3-point shooting is sustainable or not, San Antonio has taken two massive shots to the chin while not dishing out enough of its own.
Yes, things have looked awful, and aside from roughly 24 minutes of basketball the Warriors have been in control of this series. But there was that one knockdown, that one mark on the scorecard that says this thing is tied heading out to Oakland. And however you want to look at it, San Antonio can’t be much worse. Even inside the confines of the Oracle madhouse, Golden State can’t possibly be any better.
The Spurs should hope not, because if this isn’t the best we’ve seen from the Warriors, San Antonio will be on an early vacation.