The Golden State Warriors once again disposed of the short-handed San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, winning Game 3 of the Western Conference finals 120-108. The Warriors were led by Kevin Durant, who scored 33 points on 11-for-19 shooting. With a 3-0 lead in the series, Golden State is still undefeated in the playoffs and can advance to the NBA Finals with a victory in Game 4 on Monday.
K.D. strikes again
Durant's performance was reminiscent of Game 1 -- he did just about everything that the Warriors needed. He's a monster (or Monstar) in transition, and the Spurs didn't have any answers for him running high pick-and-rolls. Durant scored 19 points in the third quarter alone, including 16 straight Golden State points. Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown said that once Durant got in a groove, they basically wanted to use him like a point guard. A weapon like him makes everything seem simpler.
"He was huge for us. We didn't do anything tricky. He got hot and we just wanted to keep him in the middle of the floor, attacking downhill in pick-and-roll situations. And that's what we did."
Durant's best highlight was this dunk in the second quarter â¦
KD gets 8 points in the quarter. He's up to 14/6. @warriors seeking 3-0 series advantage, lead @spurs 64-55 on ESPN.— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2017
Manu: 13 PTS. pic.twitter.com/ay1xbZ3HDS
â¦ but his most demoralizing bucket was this four-point play in the third:
Durant scores 19 of the @warriors 36 points in the 3rd. #DubNation looking to close out Game 3, lead @spurs 100-88 on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/Hr5zK9oIiQ— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2017
Nobody knows how this series would look if San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard were healthy and in uniform. Without him, San Antonio hardly had a shot against Durant.
The scary part
The Spurs actually played pretty well, and the Warriors were not all that impressive compared to when they're at their best. This was absolutely nothing like Game 2, a 136-100 Golden State win after which San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich questioned whether his team truly believed in itself without Leonard. This time, Popovich had no such concerns.
"The competitiveness was great," Popovich said. "Every time you look up, you're playing against four All-Stars, so you better be pretty perfect. And competitiveness-wise I couldn't ask for anything more. We turned it over too much and we gotta make some more shots, but it's a hell of a team."
The Spurs' offense was fine considering Leonard and guard Tony Parker were out of the lineup. They were dealt another blow when forward David Lee left the game with a knee injury after playing just two minutes. The real issue is that San Antonio, which had the league's best defense in the regular season, just can't stop Golden State enough, even when the super team was sloppier than normal, finishing with 21 turnovers.
"Game 2 was a tough one for multiple reasons," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "You all know why. We knew we were going to be able to bounce back at least emotionally today and play a better game. The fact is that it's just too tough. We're missing Kawhi's offense and defense in this series, and of course Tony, and they're a good team even with them. So we are struggling to score, today we did OK offensively. But they were just too much for us today offensively."
More vintage Manu
Ginobili had 21 points in 18 minutes off the bench, shooting 7-for-9 and going 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. Given what San Antonio is going through, it absolutely needed that kind of production from him. Brown, a former Spurs assistant coach, raved about the 39-year-old.
"Everybody around the league has the ultimate respect for him," Brown said. "He's been playing a long time, and only positive things happen when he's on the floor. I can't imagine doing the things that he's doing out there at his age. It looks like he can play a couple more years. I don't know if he wants to hear that, but the way that Pop treats his team and helps all those players out, the longevity in my opinion is there for Manu."
Alas, this is likely the last ride for Ginobili, and he has made quite a few more memories in these playoffs. This was his highest-scoring game of the postseason, but he said that he wasn't consciously trying to do anything different.
"I swear I try every game," Ginobili said. "Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. I try the same way against Memphis, I score zero four games in a row. Today I just happened to make a couple. I got to the rim more often than in the past, and of course without Kawhi and without Tony, there's more possessions for everybody else."
That means more pick-and-roll opportunities, which means more stuff like this:
Manu & Patty get 7 PTS each. @spurs lead @warriors 33-29 after 1 on ESPN.— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2017
GSW lead series 2-0. #NBAPlayoffspic.twitter.com/EVYTlQTnUC
Much ado about Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to draw all sorts of ire for not taking over in the absence of Leonard. This is kind of silly. It would help the Spurs if he were better, sure, but as our Matt Moore wrote before the game, Aldridge is not coming to save them.
It's easy to point the finger at him and his contract and his status as a five-time All-Star, especially after Popovich (rightfully) criticized him for his lack of aggressiveness in Game 2. On some level, star-quality players know that if they don't have big games in the playoffs, they will be called out.
Realistically, though, how much can be expected of him? Unlike Durant, he doesn't handle the ball like a guard, so -- like most big men -- he has to rely on his teammates getting him the ball in the right situations instead of simply creating his own shot at will. When he's double-teamed or guarded by the probable Defensive Player of the Year, is he supposed to force bad shots? That is not what Popovich wants.
Aldridge's inconsistency can be frustrating, but let's at least understand the context here. His 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting do not represent some kind of failure.