It was a somber night inside of the AT&T Center. Less than 24 hours removed from the devastating news of head coach Gregg Popovich’s wife Erin passing, the San Antonio Spurs took the floor with heavy hearts.
Led by interim head coach Ettiore Messina and a passionate nucleus of players, the Spurs came out swinging in honor of their head coach. The offense showed some signs of life in the first half, and the Spurs’ active hands on defense led to some opportunities in transition that the Silver and Black took advantage of. However the Warriors responded with an attack of their own.
Much like Klay Thompson did in game 2, Durant took over in the second half. His jumper was flawless, and he dribbled circles around every defender Coach Messina threw at him.
As the game wore on, the talent won out. The Spurs ultimately fell, but once again they played with pride and competed until the clock struck zero. There are a lot of faults with this team, but ‘‘give a damn’’ sure isn’t one of them.
Here are my takeaways from an emotional night of basketball.
- The Spurs struggled to get the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge during stretches of the game and at one point, stopped looking for their franchise player. The fact that LA only had 10 shot attempts (three of which were put-backs off the glass and one a transition layup) shows how persistently the Warriors defense sold out to keep the ball away from San Antonio’s lone All Star. Unfortunately, when the visitors doubled Aldridge, the team was unable to make them pay for it. Whether it was bricked wide-open jumpers, or running afoul of Golden State’s long-armed scrambling defense, the Spurs couldn’t take advantage. When LaMarcus could get the ball in good position and score quickly (before the double could bother him), he did — otherwise, the team was hard-pressed to generate good looks. And they missed too many of the ones they managed to create.
- Patty Mills was great offensively. The fan favorite Aussie is a complimentary piece who’s being asked to be a focal point of the offense. That is not his game, but #8 is giving it his best shot. These past two games we’ve seen Mills begin to play with that fire that has made him such a special player during his time with the Silver and Black. It may not always be pretty, and there might be nights he can’t throw the ball into the ocean, but the passion and relentless effort he plays with should be commended. He is a Spur if I have ever seen one.
- If anyone has seen the regular season Kyle Anderson recently, please direct him to the AT&T Center. The team’s Swiss army knife started the season off on a tear, and arguably carried this team in stretches; but in the face of Golden State’s swarming defense, he has reverted back to the often passive and ineffective player he was out of college — seven total points in three games for a player who averaged 13, 9, and 4 against GSW in the regular season. The struggles continued on defense, as Kevin Durant attacked the former UCLA Bruin off the dribble and ignited a flurry of Golden State baskets to end the first half and start the second. It was a tough night for Kyle.
- Rudy Gay had some good looks that just didn’t drop. He did a solid job attacking the Warriors off the bounce, but failed connect on some opportunities that could have shifted the momentum of the game. Defensively he did not have the same caliber game he had in Game 2. Durant, who appeared bothered by Gay’s length back in Oakland, seemed to settle in against the veteran. Once KD started getting to his spots, the competitive portion of the game was virtually over. It may not have been an elite night overall for #22, but without him this game would not have been close. He set the tone with some big dunks early and drastically helped the Spurs ball movement by breaking down the W’s defense.
- How about the rejuvenated Tony Parker? It was the best he’s played in the past three weeks. If TP could have stepped up like this in game 2, the Spurs might have stolen one at Oracle Arena. Regardless, Parker’s play Thursday night was a sight Spurs fans have desperately wanted to see. His movement was as good as I’ve seen this season. After he got that and-1 shot at the elbow to fall, you could tell he really had it going.
- Manu Ginobili had a tough night. He did a great job moving the ball, but missed a number of open looks from deep — any of which would have moved him ahead of Reggie Miller on the all-time list of NBA playoff three-pointers.
- I was pleased with what I saw from Pau Gasol for the second straight game. He appears to gradually be regaining the confidence that he started the season with on the low block. He is too much of a liability defensively to play more than just a handful of minutes against this team, but his ability to score the ball and control the glass has helped lead what was otherwise a deficient second unit attack.
- Still waiting for the game Danny Green and Davis Bertans get hot from deep. The pair of sharpshooters have gone ice cold from beyond the arc since this series started and it has significantly hampered the offense and put a tremendous load of pressure on LaMarcus Aldridge’s shoulders.