After all of the acclaim the Golden State Warriors received after their surprising Game 2 victory, the San Antonio Spurs showed why they have been the team to beat for over a decade.
Led by the seemingly ageless Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, the Spurs retook control of their second-round NBA playoff matchup with a 102-92 victory in Game 3 on Friday night, reclaiming home-court advantage and taking a 2-1 series lead.
Tallying an impressive line of 32 points, five rebounds and five assists, Parker shot, weaved and floated his way to another typical Parker playoff performance. The old guy wasn’t so bad himself. Duncan did what the Big Fundamental always does, rising to the occasion and collecting 23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Just another day at the office for those two.
In a game defined by runs, the Spurs always seemed to have an answer when the young Warriors would attempt one of their patented shooting barrages. Be it the defense of Danny Green on Stephen Curry, a horse shot by Parker or a clutch bucket by Duncan, the Spurs refused to allow the Warriors to build sustained momentum.
Now it’s back to square one for the Warriors.
Very rarely in these playoffs have we seen both Curry and Klay Thompson struggle shooting the ball. Now we see what happens when they do. With the duo combining to go just 12-of-37 from the field, the supporting cast could not muster up enough offense to make up for their cold-shooting leaders.
Adding insult to injury (literally), Curry appeared to re-injure the nagging left ankle that he hurt in the Warriors’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. Should the injury linger, the Warriors might be in for a heap of trouble. We saw what happens when Curry isn’t at his best. The Warriors don’t want to see what happens if there’s no Curry at all.
For Mark Jackson, it’s back to the drawing board. He needs to find a way for his team to put the ball in the basket when the outside shot isn’t falling.
"They outplayed us, they out-worked us and they were the aggressor," said Jackson at the postgame press conference.
For Golden State to win this series, that simply can’t happen. The Spurs are too battle-tested, too experienced and, quite simply, too good for anything but the Warriors’ best.
Still, just like it was silly to write off the Spurs after the Game 2 loss, these Warriors are far from done. Their response after the back-breaking Game 1 debacle shows the Warriors will be heard from again this series. For as cold as they were this night, we’ve seen them be far hotter.
In the grand scheme of things, this was just one game. Unfortunately for the Warriors, it was a game in which they learned what the rest of the league has known for a long time: The San Antonio Spurs are really good.
In the past it has taken a player of the caliber of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant to knock them out of their perch. For the Warriors to win this series, Stephen Curry is going to have to throw his name into that hat.
Let’s just hope his ankle doesn’t rob him of the opportunity to do so.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.