Warriors survive Spurs — and here come the Pelicans
9:25 AM
Art Spander in Spurs, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — They had it. Then they didn’t. Then somehow, from the chaos that is NBA playoff basketball, a game of push, shove and teeth-grinding tension, the Warriors took it — survived, really — which wasn’t what was expected but, hey, it was the Spurs out there, not just any opponent.

And now Saturday come the New Orleans Pelicans, who with the “Brow,” Anthony Davis, a big man and a huge presence, could very well end the Dubs’ reign as champions. 

But that’s the next series, the next act, and after Tuesday night’s gasping victory over San Antonio — with a lead trickling away from 15 points with 10 minutes left to 7 points with 1:40 left to 2 points with 42 seconds left, and the sellout crowd at Oracle agonizing, the Dubs eventually winning, 99-91 — the future can wait.

A few days at least.

The Warriors took the first-round series from San Antonio four games to one, and as they say in golf it ain’t how but how many. After a loss in Texas, the Dubs did what was necessary — playing defense (the Spurs shot only 31 percent in the first half, 37 percent for the game) and handling the ball well, 10 turnovers to 13 for meticulous Spurs.

Asked what he wanted to focus on practicing for the Pelicans, who stunningly swept the Portland Trail Blazers in their first-round series, Kerr said, “Just the basics. You’ve got to defend, rebound and take care of the ball. That’s what wins in the playoffs.”

That’s what has been winning for the Warriors the past three years, especially now with the absence of two-time MVP Steph Curry. Golden State has won 12 straight home playoff games, the longest such streak since the Lakers in the seasons of 2009-10.

“Guys have to step up and make shots and all that stuff,” agreed Kerr. “But what you can control is critical, and that means, you know, not skipping any steps, boxing out and making the rotations; knowing the game plan and just competing like crazy.”

Which is what the aging Spurs did, without their head coach, Gregg Popovich — who after his wife died between games two and three stepped way and turned control of the team to his lead assistant, Ettore Messina.

In a class move following his formal post-game interview Tuesday night, the Warriors' often contentious Draymond Green stood up and asked for prayers for the man known as Pop, a mentor to Kerr, the Warriors' coach, and respected and admired through all basketball.

This was a moment of reflection after a game of suspense. The Warriors were up 9-0 right away. Easy, right? Then they trailed by 18. “I think they have done an incredible job on a night when the shots weren’t falling,” Messina said of his Spurs.

They weren’t falling because the Warriors weren’t allowing them to fall, harassing the shooters. Only the brilliant center LaMarcus Aldridge, 30 points on 8 of 18 and 14 for 14 from the line, and Patty Mills, the St. Mary’s alum, 18 points, did anything offensively for San Antonio.

For the Warriors, Kevin Durant, who was a poor 4 of 12 for three quarters, warmed up near the end. He finished with 25 points, one more than Klay Thompson (11 of 22 from the floor). Green had 17 points — and 19 rebounds.

“Draymond can literally do everything,” said Thompson. “So these last two games, he’s been rebounding like a beast, and his ability to take the ball from the rim and push the break is what sparks the offense so much.

“We expect him to continue to play with this edge, because when he does — and he’s played with great emotion and passion — that’s when he’s at his best.”

Which is what the Warriors will have to be if they’re going to advance.

“I’ve seen Anthony Davis,” said Thompson, “I’ve seen plenty of highlights of what he’s doing this postseason, and it’s amazing. So it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”

One night in the regular season, Davis scored 58 against the Phoenix Suns.

“We got to take it one game at a time, like the cliché goes,” said Thompson. ‘You can’t look ahead to the West finals or (NBA) finals. You have to beat the Pelicans, and they are playing really well right now.”

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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