Warriors send statement with comeback win over Spurs
SAN ANTONIO — During the 2002-03 season, Steve Kerr averaged only 12.7 minutes per game for an NBA-title-winning Spurs team.
Kerr took mental notes during practices whenever head coach Gregg Popovich stopped to critique players on the nuances of his system.
In a brief coaching tenure marked by unparalleled success, Kerr’s biggest Western Conference nemesis has been the team led by his longtime mentor.
Wednesday’s convincing victory, which required digging out of a 22-point, first-quarter hole, offered a measure of redemption — not just for Kerr, but for his team.
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the Warriors are 3½ games up on the Spurs for the Western Conference’s top seed.
Adding to Golden State’s feel-good vibes was the news earlier Wednesday that the team is optimistic Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a left knee injury, will return before the end of the regular season.
After a cast of reserves was drubbed March 11 by the Spurs, Golden State was mired in a 2-5 rut — its biggest batch of adversity in the Kerr era.
From the start of the 1997-98 season until April 10, 2016, they dropped 33 consecutive regular-season games in the Alamo City.
Golden State, which has played here six straight times on the rough end of a back-to-back set, lost its two previous games against the Spurs this season by a combined 51 points.
In the early stages Wednesday, the Warriors appeared headed for yet another shellacking.
A Golden State scoreless stretch of four-plus minutes paved the way for a 15-0 San Antonio lead.
The Warriors were outrebounded mightily, slow to loose balls and sloppy with their passes.
At one point late in that opening period, Golden State had three times as many turnovers (six) as field goals (2).
To mount one of its biggest comebacks in years, Golden State relied on a familiar blueprint: make the extra pass, tighten things defensively and let Curry (game-high 29 points) and Klay Thompson (23) hit open shots.
The Spurs’ MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, disappeared during crucial stretches on a night he finished with 19 points on 7-for-20 shooting (0-for-5 from three-point range).
Golden State outscored the Spurs 37-24 in the second quarter to trim its deficit to three points by halftime.
Thompson’s three-pointer from the left wing early in the third gave the Warriors their first lead of the game.
With Durant celebrating in street clothes, David West (15 points on 11 shots) and Andre Iguodala (14 points on nine shots) were at peak efficiency.
If the Warriors and Spurs tie for first, San Antonio gets the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference because it has won the season series.