If theres been a surprising aspect of the Warriors season,its been their improvement on the road. After going just 10-31 away fromOracle Arena last season, the Warriors are 9-13 on the road this year. GoldenState has won four of its last six road games.The Warriors will try to improve on that stretch Sundaynight when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers in the Rose Garden. Manyconsidered the Blazers a lock to make the playoffs this season, but theirseason went sideways about a month ago and the franchise ended up firing coachNate McMillan.Portland has lost 10 of its past 14 games. Golden State canpull even with the Blazers in the standings if it beats PortlandSunday.Here are some things to watch for during theWarriors-Blazers game:Thompson-Batum: Warriors rookie shootingguard Klay Thompson is coming off a career-high 31-point game against the Kingson Saturday night. The Blazers have one of the better perimeter defenders inthe league in Nicolas Batum.It seems apparent Batum will likely defend Thompson at times, and that shouldbe a challenge for Thompson. Batums length can often give wing playerstrouble, and it will be interesting to see how Thompson plays going up againsta top-notch defender.Defending Aldridge: Now that the Warriorsno longer have Ekpe Udoh traded to Milwaukee as part of the MontaEllis-for-Andrew Bogut trade they have a weakness when it comes to guardingcompetent scoring power forwards.The responsibility of defending Aldridge will likely fall inlarge part to David Lee, but hes not as effective as Udoh in the role oflow-post defender. Its worth keeping an eye on how the Warriors defendbig-time power forwards (Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, etc.) not thatUdoh is no longer in the fold.Jenkins opportunity: With Nate Robinsonsstatus for tonight unknown, it could be big minutes for rookie point guardCharles Jenkins. Robinson strained his right hamstring on Saturday nightagainst the Kings and did not return.If Robinson cant go, the Warriors are down to only onepoint guard and thats Jenkins. Look for Jenkins to get significant minutes, and his job will be to takeare of the ball, run the team and take what the defense gives him.
MEMPHIS, Tenn -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, and the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-96 Thursday night to take the series 4-2.
The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio's second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round.
Tony Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Patty Mills had 10 points off the bench for the Spurs. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.
Their semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.
The Grizzlies fell to 3-10 in elimination games, losing six straight.
This was a taut game with 16 ties and nine lead changes, especially with four ties in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs took control after the Grizzlies went up 88-81 on three free throws from Conley with 6:29 left. Then Leonard scored eight straight for San Antonio, starting a 22-8 run to finish the game.
Even with Conley and Gasol a combined 2 of 10 in the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed only 24-22 after Conley knocked down a 3 at the end of the quarter for his first bucket of the game. Conley hit another 3 for the final shot in the second quarter, putting Memphis up 50-45. The team that led at halftime won each of the first five games.
Parker hit his first six shots before finally missing his seventh with 29 seconds left in the first half.
The Grizzlies took their biggest lead at 57-47 on a 3-pointer by James Ennis III. That gave Memphis as many made 3s (9 of 17) as the Spurs had attempted (3 of 9) at that point. Randolph's layup with 7:19 left matched that 10-point lead at 63-53.
Then the Spurs went on a 13-3 run over a 4-minute span to erase that lead on Aldridge's three-point play at 67-66. Aldridge finished with nine points in helping the Spurs lead 75-74 at the end of the quarter.
Spurs: They improved to 36-15 with a chance to clinch a series under coach Gregg Popovich, who took over in the 1996-97 season. ... Manu Ginobili converted a four-point play with 1:31 left in the third, putting the Spurs up 73-69. ... The Spurs wound up tying the Grizzlies' reserves with 16 points thanks to Mills.
Grizzlies: The Grizzlies set a franchise record hitting eight 3-pointers in the first half, topping the previous mark of seven in the second half May 1, 2005, against Phoenix. ... Conley has 20 or more points in five straight playoff games, the longest such streak in franchise history.
FREE THROW WATCH
Memphis coach David Fizdale earned a $30,000 fine from the NBA for his "Take that for data" rant about the free throw discrepancy in Game 2. Well, Leonard was 9 of 10 at the free throw line through three quarters compared to the Grizzlies' 7 of 8. The Spurs were 18 of 20 through three quarters. The Spurs finished 22 of 25 compared to 20 of 24 for Memphis.
Steve Kerr did not coach in Game 3 or Game 4 against the Blazers and is out indefinitely.
On Thursday, Warriors GM Bob Myers spoke with Jim Rome about Kerr's situation.
“What he’s going through right now is not a product of stress, it’s not a product of coaching, it’s more a physical issue that will be solved," Myers started. "When it will be solved, no one can say. But it is solvable, it’s fixable and like I said, he’s going to coach, but right now he just can’t.
"There’s some things that need to be corrected. But I think he’ll get back. I’m very very confident he will be back coaching, I just can’t say when.”
Kerr was not at practice on Wednesday and is consulting with specialists at Stanford this week.
Kerr is finishing up Year 3 of the five-year deal he signed back in May 2014.
"I think this guy is going to coach for a long time, because he thoroughly enjoys it," Myers said. "He really loves the game, and he is a great teacher. And you’ve had him on, I’m sure you’ve met him and talked to him. It’s one thing to know the game, but he has the ability to communicate it and our players clearly respond.
"So I can see that’s why a question you’d ask I totally get it and other people have asked but no I think he’s going to be in this game for a long time, we just have to get him back healthy now.”
The Warriors' next practice and media availability is on Friday.
The next series against the Jazz or Clippers will start on either Sunday or Tuesday.