Basketball: Big win but Warriors coach Kerr still wary of Spurs

Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors argues a call with Mike Callahan during their game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors argues a call with Mike Callahan during their game against the San Antonio Spurs. PHOTO: AFP

Warriors whip title rivals but coach warns not to expect the same in future games

OAKLAND (California) • Round one goes to the champions. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr insisted the outcome was no knockout, though.

"It won't mean anything if we meet San Antonio in the play-offs," he said after guard Stephen Curry's 37 points led the Warriors to a 120-90 thrashing of the Spurs in the season's first head-to-head clash between the top two teams in the Western Conference.

Curry, the reigning National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, made six three-pointers as the Warriors (41-4) shot 11-for-26 from beyond the arc in the highly anticipated match-up.

It did not play out exactly how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had envisioned for his club, who arrived in Oakland boasting a 13-game winning streak.

"I'm just glad my general manager wasn't in the locker room," he said. "Because it might have gotten me fired."

STRONG DEFENCE

I thought it was our defensive pressure that set the pace. Twenty-six turnovers... They probably aren't going to play that poorly ever again against us.

STEVE KERR, Warriors head coach, on how they managed to beat the San Antonio Spurs so convincingly.

EMBARRASSING DEFEAT

I'm just glad my general manager wasn't in the locker room, because it might have gotten me fired.

GREGG POPOVICH, Spurs head coach, on suffering the heavy defeat against their fellow title contenders.

The clubs will meet three more times in the regular season, including twice in San Antonio, where Golden State have lost 32 consecutive regular-season games.

For now, the Warriors' 39th consecutive home victory - their 21st this season - gave them a three-game lead over San Antonio (38-7) in their duel for top seeding in the Western play-offs.

"I liked pretty much everything about tonight," said Kerr, whose team shot 51.8 per cent from the field against the league's No. 1 defence. "But it's not going to be the case next time we see them."

The Spurs averaged an 18-point margin of victory during their winning streak.

On Monday, they played without star power forward Tim Duncan, who was resting an ailing right knee. But one man's absence was not a factor, according to Popovich.

"It was like men and boys out there tonight," he said.

Curry, who hit 12 of 20 shots overall, also had three assists and five steals in 29 minutes for the Warriors, whose last home loss came at the hands of the Spurs on Nov 11, 2014.

In fact, San Antonio prevailed in 23 of their previous 26 visits to Oakland. But they fell behind by as many as 19 in the second quarter.

Curry set the tone early with a 15-point first period during which the Spurs played their most competitive passage of the night.

But when Warriors back-up guard Shaun Livingston got into the act with five consecutive hoops in the second period, the game got away from the Spurs for good.

The Warriors had 21 assists on 24 baskets in the first half, 31 on 44 in all. Meanwhile, the Spurs were stalled by 26 turnovers.

"We got the game to our pace early," Kerr said. "I thought it was our defensive pressure that set the pace. Twenty-six turnovers... They probably aren't going to play that poorly ever again against us."

Curry crushed the Spurs with three more three-pointers in the third quarter, during which the Warriors ran up a 95-66 lead to set the stage for an inconsequential final 12 minutes.

He added 18 points to his total in the third while nearly outscoring San Antonio (19) single-handedly.

Livingston totalled 13 points for the Warriors. Fellow back-ups Brandon Rush (13) and Marreese Speights (12) also scored in double figures.

Forward Draymond Green had 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in 27 minutes, and shooting guard Klay Thompson was the sixth Warrior in double figures with 11 points.

Small forward Kawhi Leonard had a 16-point outing for the Spurs, whose six previous losses came by a total of 33 points.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge was held to a season-low five points, and San Antonio's starting back-court offered little support. Tony Parker (five points) and Danny Green (three) shot a combined 3-for-10 while being outscored 45-8 by Warriors counterparts Curry and Thompson.

It was the worst loss for San Antonio since a 97-137 rout at the hands of Portland in February 2012.

"At this point, they are better than us," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "I'm not embarrassed to face it."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Big win but Kerr still wary of Spurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe