OAKLAND -- Eventually the injuries were going to catch up with the San Antonio Spurs. With Tony Parker done for the season and Kawhi Leonard out with an ankle issue, the Golden State Warriors ran early double-teams at big man LaMarcus Aldridge all night long and dared someone else to beat them.
“I think that we maybe felt it too much, Kawhi being gone,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “In the sense that as I watched, I don’t think they believed. And you have to believe and I don’t think as a group they did.”
Journeyman Jonathan Simmons stepped in for Leonard and accepted the challenge, but he was one of the few Spurs player to show up Tuesday night as the Warriors steam rolled the team with the second best record in the Western Conference.
In the lopsided first half, Simmons went off for 17 of San Antonio’s 44 points as the Warriors took a 28 point lead into the intermission. No other player on the Spurs roster managed to score more than four points in the game’s first 24 minutes.
“When we’re at our best, everyone is playing well and Simmons has been able to be more consistent throughout this whole playoffs, which is great to see,” Patty Mills said following the game. “He’s doing his part and everyone needs to lift their own as well.”
A restricted free agent after the season, Simmons, 27, finished with 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting in 26 minutes.
The second half was more of the same. Without Parker to control the tempo of the offense or Leonard to take the pressure off of Aldridge, the Warriors punished San Antonio, holding their visiting opponent to just 37 percent shooting on their way to the 136-100 win.
“When you’re playing a team as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you’re going to come out,” Popovich said. “And we did.”
Only Simmons and reserve forward David Bertans (13 points) score in double-figures for the Spurs. San Antonio mainstays Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili combined to score 27 points on 10-for-32 shooting from the field.
“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating,” said Gasol. “Give them credit because they played well. They made shots, they got their confidence going. I’m sure felt like they got away with in Game 1 with the way they were able to come back and get that win and tonight they were ready and you could tell.”
Warriors star guard Stephen Curry outscored the five veteran Spurs on his own, finishing the evening with 29 points in 30 minutes of action.
Popovich singled out Aldridge in his post game comments. The veteran big scored eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and chipped in just four rebounds in 27 minutes.
“LaMarcus has to score for us,” Popovich said. “He can't be timid. He turned down shots in the first quarter. He can't do it. You've got to score. Scoring has to come from someplace. I think he's got a major responsibility in Game 3 to come out ask get something done.”
Prior to the contest, Popovich said that the Spurs were in wait and see mode with regards to Leonard. The All-Star wing and reigning two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year led the San Antonio in scoring this season at 25.5 points per game. He may be the only thing stopping the series from being a runaway sweep by the Warriors.
The Western Conference Finals travels to San Antonio where these two teams face off Saturday night. The Spurs need to find a way to slow the Warriors who are now 10-0 during the 2016-17 playoffs.