Curry, Warriors boat race Leonard-less Spurs, swipe 2-0 lead

Highlights of Game 6 of last series danced in Warriors fans’ heads. Would the San Antonio Spurs be able to do to Golden State what they did to the Houston Rockets not one week ago, slamming them without star Kawhi Leonard? In one word, nope.

To borrow a phrase from WWE announcer Jim Ross, the Warriors stomped a mudhole in the Spurs and walked it dry with a 136-100 molly-whopping in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

The 36-point victory was the second-largest postseason victory in franchise history, and it didn’t feel that close. It was reminiscent of a pro wrestling match with the way the Warriors beat down the Spurs with no regard. Like watching someone being pelted with steel chairs, then being put through a table just because.

Starting the game out hot, unlike Game 1, was a point of emphasis to rebuild their confidence Stephen Curry said:

“For us, mentally, we just know what we need to do to be successful against this team. Even with Kawhi back in there, probably on Saturday, you’ve got to understand exactly the things that we did better tonight.”

And Curry did better. Even after his 40-point performance in the Warriors’ Game 1 comeback.

He shot the lights out from the very start, going 4-of-5 from deep in the first quarter alone, even nailing a couple tough looks. He continued what he started in two nights prior and just rained shots down on the helpless Spurs defense. It wasn’t just his shooting touch either, he was weaving in and out of defenders with little test, and breaking them down for easy buckets.

His night would be over after the third quarter but he still finished with 29 points on 8-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and just two turnovers.

But it was the bench led the Warriors, even with the absence of Andre Iguodala. The same unit that scored just 13 combined points in Game 1 poured in 25 points in the first half alone. They finished with 63 points and collectively shot 26-of-42, though much of it came in extended garbage time lasting the entire fourth quarter.

It truly was a group effort, with seven players reaching double-figures for the Warriors and James Michael McAdoo falling just short with nine. While on the opposite side, the Spurs had just two players reach double-figures and Davis Bertans 13 points came exclusively in garbage time.

It was all a culmination of something Steve Kerr started building in the regular season Mike Brown said:

“He’s played 27 guys throughout the course of the year. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it every game. That’s shown benefits for us, especially as of late. Guys not only do they believe in themselves, but their teammates believe in them, the coaching staff believes in them.”

Patrick McCaw took the bulk of Iguodala’s minutes, it was the first minutes in the Conference Finals for the rookie but it didn’t look like it as he was very productive, attacking whenever a big switched onto him and looking confident while doing it. He turned in a signature performance with 18 points, five assists and three steals. All while shooting a blistering 6-of-8 from the field.

Brown was quick to give credit to Kerr again, for suggesting using McCaw in place of Iguodala:

“That was Steve’s suggestion.  It made sense, especially with Kawhi not playing tonight, and he stepped up and had a big game for us.”

The Warriors offense was humming from the start as they racked up 23 assists in the first half alone, after handing out 22 — a minute total, for them — in Game 1. They finished with 39 assists as a team, which is the most assists by any team in a game this postseason.

Gone were the arrant passes, slowed tempo and isolation offense of last game. They flipped the script on the Spurs who were the ones sending passes sailing into the stands or fumbling the rock away in the lane. They turned it over nine times in the first half, but more importantly the Warriors scored 16 points off those turnovers.

Without Leonard, the Spurs had basically no one that was a positive on offense. LaMarcus Aldridge might as well have sat out with Leonard because he was downright invisible. He was the Spurs only offensive weapon and yet he took just 10 shots and didn’t score his first basket until seven minutes into the second quarter, finishing with a mere eight points. Not what you would want from your second ‘star’ in hunting for an upset without the first.

Getting his second start of these playoffs, Jonathon Simmons did what he could to fill the void left in the absence of Leonard and Aldridge’s production. He posted a team-high and career-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep.

Even with his outburst, though, the Warriors defense held the Spurs to just 37 percent shooting, which is already playing with one foot in the grave. Couple that with the Warriors having an absurd 69.8 true shooting percentage and that’s a full on shove into the casket.

Curry reiterated the importance of the defense:

“Making shots can come and go, but you have to give yourself an opportunity to withstand whatever may happen on the offensive end. Even so, our defense could even promote the tempo that we wanted to get to. So that was the key tonight.”

In pro wrestling there’s a saying that you always go out on your back — meaning, when the greats leave the ring for good it’s in a loss to put over new talent. And that’s exactly what it looked like Tuesday, a once great team, going out on it’s back.

Up Next

The teams will get three full days of rest before they travel to what will undoubtedly be a hostile San Antonio crowd Saturday. The long break is to let the East’s series catch up but it will give Leonard and Iguodala, who sat out again with back tightness, more time to recover for Game 3.

Notes

Zaza Pachulia left the game after halftime with a right heel contusion and didn’t return. His X-rays were negative after the game but with the way the series has gone, the Warriors may sit him in Game 3 just to be safe. … Stephen Curry has now made 286 3-pointers in his playoff career, passing Derek Fisher for sixth place on the all-time list. He needs just six more to pass Kobe Bryant for fifth.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.