But both teams played with heavy hearts the entire game as Gregg Popovich wasn’t patrolling the sidelines after the death of his wife Wednesday.
The Spurs rode their emotions and home crowd to a much improved showing effort-wise — but the one thing that didn’t improve was their shooting. Their wide open looks continued to clank off the rims while Kevin Durant’s shots barely touched the rims on the other end.
After they shot 4-of-28 (14.3 percent) from 3 last game, San Antonio followed that up with a 7-of-33 (21.2 percent) on their home court.
Durant finished with 26 points and feasted on anyone and everyone the Spurs threw at him.
With the Warriors employing their big starting five featuring Andre Iguodala as their point guard, the Spurs had no answer or counter with their starters. They kept insisting on putting Patty Mills on Klay Thompson, and that has worked out great — for the Warriors.
All Thompson has done is shoot 63.2 percent for the series and 65 percent from deep. He cooled off Thursday scoring 19 on 8-of-16 shooting, still 50 percent but it could have been even better if he didn’t rush every other attempt like he was on the last rack of the 3-point contest in the first half.
And what he’s given to the Warriors starting unit, the Spurs backcourt has subtracted from its own. Dejounte Murray and Danny Green have scored 36 points combined for the whole series, they’ve been outscored by 41 points by Thompson alone. In fact they are barely outscoring reserve guard Shaun Livingston, who has 29 over the three games.
While Thompson and Durant have looked unstoppable on offense, Draymond Green looks just as transcendent on defense. He finished with two steals and four blocks and has made life miserable to any Spur who looks to attack the basket.
But it isn’t just the Warriors starters who made a difference. Kevon Looney broke out off the bench. He had just four points and two boards but he was a plus-17 in his 22 minutes on the court. And he outplayed both the Spurs’ back-up bigs Pau Gasol and Kyle Anderson. While the counting stats may favor the Spurs duo Looney contributed beyond the box score.
His effort, specifically on defense, was a difference maker, whereas the Warriors consistently targeted Gasol and Anderson on the other end. It was almost uncomfortable watching the slow-footed bigs try to corral any of the Warriors perimeter players in open space again and again.
But it just wouldn’t be the 2018 Warriors season if the game didn’t end without an injury. On back-to-back plays Mills collided with Durant and Livingston causing two tweaked ankles. Durant’s looked not bad but Livingston’s may be troubling.
Wrap these guys in bubble wrap until the next series.
The Warriors look to close out the Spurs and the series Sunday evening.
Andre Iguodala hit 1-of-5 from 3 in Game 3 and with that one make, passed Harrison Barnes for fourth place in franchise history for playoff 3’s made. He also moved into fourth place in playoff assists on the all-time franchise list too.