Spurs play regulars on back-to-back nights, down Warriors
Steve Kerr approached Gregg Popovich on the court, smiled and shared a laugh with one of his mentors following his first home loss as coach of the Golden State Warriors.
"I just told him, `Thanks a lot for picking tonight to play your best game of the year,’" said Kerr, who also was hoping Popovich would rest his regulars.
Instead, Popovich played his veterans on consecutive nights — and they delivered.
Tony Parker had 28 points and seven assists, Kawhi Leonard scored 19 and the restless San Antonio Spurs beat the Warriors 113-100 on Tuesday night.
"I’m really proud of them. Back-to-backs are difficult for an older team, but I thought they really showed a lot of focus and played with a purpose," Popovich said.
The defending NBA champions leaned on their aging Big Three — Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan — to pull off California’s most difficult double. The Spurs rallied past the Clippers 89-85 on Monday in Los Angeles before cooling off one of the league’s hottest teams in Oakland.
Popovich said he went with his regulars because it’s early in the season, the Spurs have the next two days off and his veterans wanted to play.
"We know in the West, it’s a beast, and you don’t want to take too many games off because it’s tough to catch-up," Parker said.
Klay Thompson scored 29 points after missing the previous game with a sprained right hand, and Harrison Barnes had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors, who have lost two straight after a 5-0 start under Kerr.
The first-year coach seemed more at peace with the loss than he has after some wins this season. Kerr credited the Spurs for playing a near mistake-free game and said there wasn’t much his team — or any team — could do when the Spurs are at their best.
"Look, I retired 12 years ago, and the same three top players and the same coach are still over there. It’s insane," said Kerr, who won two of his five NBA titles as a player under Popovich.
San Antonio played the kind of all-around game that has defined the franchise for more than a decade. The formula worked perfectly against Golden State, which entered the night leading the league in field-goal percentage (49 percent) and turnovers (22.3) per game.
The Spurs’ reserves outscored the Warriors’ bench 40-20. San Antonio also forced 20 turnovers and committed only eight, and the Spurs had eight offensive rebounds.
That helped the Spurs take 23 more shots than Golden State and offset a night when the Warriors outshot them 54.3 percent to 49.5 percent.
"They’re the champs for a reason," Thompson said.
Duncan had 12 points and 13 rebounds in 36 minutes. Ginobili scored 17 points in 26 minutes, and Parker shot 11 of 17 from the floor in 30 minutes as San Antonio grinded out another win.
The Spurs controlled the game most of the way until a brief run by the Warriors sliced San Antonio’s lead to six in the fourth quarter. Parker answered by converting a three-point play over Stephen Curry and followed with a 3-pointer to stretch San Antonio’s lead to 108-96 with 1:52 to play.
Spurs: Tiago Splitter (right calf tightness), Marco Belinelli (mild groin strain) and Patty Mills (right shoulder surgery) sat out. … Duncan needs eight points to reach 25,000 for his career, which would make him the 19th player in NBA history to hit that mark.
Warriors: Golden State waived Nemanja Nedovic, the 30th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He did not play this season. … David Lee (strained left hamstring) remains out for at least another week.
San Antonio held Curry to 16 points, and Golden State’s star guard was 0 for 7 from 3-point range, ending his streak of 75 straight games with at least one make from beyond the arc.
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD
Former San Francisco Giants slugger and home run king Barry Bonds, and Warriors Hall of Famer Rick Barry were among those in attendance.