Already down two starters in Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard and in an 0-2 hole against the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs came into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals hoping to find some sort of spark at home to make it a series. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit again, this time taking David Lee out after just two minutes in the first quarter.
The Spurs played with a lot of heart; they held the lead several minutes into the second quarter and got within single-digits in the fourth, but they just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the juggernaut Warriors. Kevin Durant again took advantage of the Leonard-less Spurs’ lack of defensive answer for him with 33 points to lead Golden State to 120-108 victory and 3-0 lead for the series.
Javale McGee, who got the start in place of the injured Zaza Pachalia, scored the Warriors’ first seven points and 11 total in the quarter while leading the Warriors to a 19-14 lead. The Spurs defended everyone besides McGee well and made their shots when they took their time and didn’t force anything. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green picked up two fouls apiece in the quarter, forcing them to sit. Lee appeared to injure his knee on a lay-up that tied the game at 21 apiece. It was on an and-1, but he could not take the free throw, meaning he would not be able to return to the game. Patty Mills gave the Spurs their first lead on a three, and in all the Spurs closed the quarter on a 19-8 run to take a 33-29 lead after the first quarter.
Down three key rotations players, the Spurs started the second quarter loose and playing like they had nothing to lose, but mistakes and unconventional line-ups continued to plague them. Another make by McGee gave the Warriors the lead back at 43-41 with 7:09 left in the half. Jonathon Simmons hit a banker to tie things back up, but after shooting over 60% for much of the first half, shots stopped falling for the Spurs late in the quarter. The Warriors found their stroke and started forcing their way to the line, getting the lead as high as 12 before the Spurs cut it down to single digits at the end of the half, 64-55. McGee led the Warriors with 16 points, while Manu Ginobili had 13.
The Spurs scored 10 quick points in the first two minutes of the third quarter, including seven by LaMarcus Aldridge, to cut the deficit to four and prompting a quick timeout from Mike Brown. The Spurs continued to grind, but Pop called a timeout of his own just past the midway point after a too-easy Patrick McCaw lay-up got the lead back to nine for the Warriors at 82-73. Durant, who had 14 points in the first half, continued to abuse the short-handed Spurs on the drive, from behind the arc, and at the free throw line. Ginobili had a good quarter for the Spurs with seven points and was probably the only reason it was still a game heading into the final quarter with the Warriors “only” up 100-88.
The Spurs continued to give it all the had to start the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to eight, but they continued to have trouble keeping the Warriors off the line and offensive boards. Down 113-95 with 6:39 left, the Spurs were finally out of energy and out of answers, and they went on to lose 120-108.
- Before the game, a group of SAPD bagpipers played Amazing Grace in honor of Scott Deem, an San Antonio firefighter who passed away fighting a four-alarm fire in a strip mall on the city’s northwest side Thursday night.
- Lee looked good early with four quick points and plenty of his signature hustle in just two minutes, but he left the game for good after what was reported to be a left knee injury in the first quarter.
- Partly by design and partly because he was forced to, Pop had the Spurs playing mostly small ball. The result was a big night for players like McGee and Durant in the paint.
- Late in the third quarter, Ginobili nutmegged David West on the way to two free throws. Even Steve Nash was impressed. Those two free throws also happened to put him in elite company with Kareem Abdul-Jabar as the only players 39 years or older to score 20+ points in a Conference Finals game.
- Danny Green appeared to tweak his calf on a dunk attempt in the fourth quarter. He stretched it out during a timeout and briefly returned before being subbed off for good. Hopefully that was just because Pop felt the game was decided and didn’t want to risk any further injury, not because he couldn’t go. The Spurs need someone to survive an awkward landing in these playoffs.
- There isn’t much else to say other than it’s pretty hard to beat a team like the Warriors without your best facilitator, scorer and defender, and one of your best energy guys off the bench who happens to know the opponent inside and out. As Pop said before the fourth quarter, his remaining players have a lot a heart and gave it all they could.
The Spurs will return to the AT&T Center on Monday for Game 4 and look to avoid the sweep. Tip-off will be at 8:00 PM on ESPN.