Kevin Durant, Warriors Beat Spurs to Take 3-0 Lead in Gregg Popovich's Absence

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2018

San Antonio Spurs' Rudy Gay (22) defends as Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) advances the ball up court in the first half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in San Antonio, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors are one victory away from sweeping the San Antonio Spurs for the second straight postseason.

Golden State went into AT&T Center on Thursday and emerged with a 110-97 victory in Game 3, extending its advantage in the first-round series to 3-0 after cruising in last year's Western Conference Finals.

Kevin Durant led the way with 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists behind 9-of-17 shooting from the field, while Klay Thompson (19 points) helped him carry the offense with Stephen Curry still sidelined because of a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

On the other side, San Antonio was playing without head coach Gregg Popovich due to tragic circumstances. Spurs PR confirmed to Cayleigh Griffin of Fox Sports Southwest that assistant Ettore Messina would coach after the death of Popovich's wife, Erin Popovich.

The Warriors are known for their three-point prowess, but they struggled to find their touch from deep against a Spurs team that was fourth in the league in defensive rating this season, per NBA.com. They were a mere 1-of-11 from downtown in the first half, forcing the offense to adapt and keeping the home team within striking distance.

Durant responded with an array of silky smooth moves and soft touch inside the lane but didn't hesitate to facilitate and find cutters when the Spurs collapsed on his mid-range looks.

Trying to get the ball out of his hands was about all the Spurs could do, considering 6'9" Durant had too much length for their guards and too much athleticism for their frontcourt players, but that meant more shots for Thompson.

He hit Golden State's first three-pointer of the game with just more than two minutes remaining in the second quarter, and his deep triple in the fourth quarter after his team hauled in multiple offensive rebounds pushed the advantage back to double digits and served as a backbreaker to San Antonio's comeback efforts.

His three triples bolstered Golden State's final mark from three-point range to a more respectable 10-of-32 (31.3 percent).

It wasn't just the Durant and Thompson show, as Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) stuffed the stat sheet, while Shaun Livingston added 16 points, but it was clear the Spurs didn't have an answer for the two primary options.

The only real downside for the Warriors was the fact that Durant and Livingston each left the contest in the closing stretch after appearing to tweak their ankles.

While the Warriors were forced to adjust without Curry, they at least have three other All-Stars to pick up the slack. The Spurs have just LaMarcus Aldridge with Kawhi Leonard out with a quadriceps injury that has cost him all but nine games this season.

Aldridge unleashed a mix of solid footwork around the rim and feathery touch on his mid-range jumpers, but the visitors limited his damage after allowing him to go off for 34 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2.

The All-Star big man finished with 18 points and 10 boards on 6-of-10 shooting, giving up the go-to role for stretches to Tony Parker and others when the Warriors diverted more than one defender his way.

Even with Parker, 35, turning back the clock and deftly working his way past the 25-year-old Quinn Cook a number of times on his way to 16 points, the Spurs didn't have the offensive weapons to keep pace with the Warriors. Patty Mills (14 points) and Rudy Gay (11 points) finished in double figures as well, but the defending champions consistently kept them at bay with timely spurts.

Attention in this series shifts to Sunday's Game 4, where the Spurs will look to avoid a sweep with a much-needed home victory.

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