SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors and San Antonio Spurs played for long stretches Friday night like two teams still waking up from Thanksgiving naps. The Chase Center crowd also can’t be left out of that conversation.
It was tough at times, but the Warriors came out on top in the end, beating the Spurs 118-112 in a Group C game of the NBA Western Conference championship.
The Warriors improved to 2-1 during the In-Season tournament, and their conference play final against the Kings on Tuesday in Sacramento will have huge implications for who wins Group C and advances to the quarterfinals.
The Warriors, Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves ended in a 2-1 tie with one game remaining. If the Timberwolves lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, the winner of the Warriors-Kings game at Golden 1 Center wins Group C.
Steph Curry, behind an 11-point third quarter, 12-point fourth quarter and 23-point second half, was the game’s leading scorer with 35 points on 11-of-20 shooting and went 7-of-13 from behind the three-point line. Curry now has 200 career games making at least six 3-pointers per game.
The next closest player has 97 such games.
Spurs rookie star Victor Wimpanyama tallied nearly a double-double with 22 points and eight rebounds, but his six turnovers were the most of any player.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors improving to 8-9 on the season and staying in the tournament on the season.
The beginning of the lineup change
The Warriors have found little consistency early this season, including their starting lineup. Steve Kerr made another change for the 17th game of the year, sending Chris Paul to the bench and making Moses Mudiay the starter. Moody is joined by Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
That five-man group entered the night playing 29 minutes together in five games, earning a net rating of 11.1 on a 109.5 offensive rating and a 98.4 defensive rating. They stayed together in the first quarter until Chris Paul replaced Moody and Dario Saric came on for Looney at the 5:48 mark. The Warriors were down 21-17 at the time, and Wimbanyama was about to hit two free throws. When Moody first came off the bench he was the Warriors’ leading scorer with six points on perfect 3-of-3 shooting.
Kerr’s decision didn’t quite work out.
Curry, Moody, Wiggins, Thompson and Looney spent 11 minutes and 33 seconds together on the court and the score was -10, outscored 34-24. They shot 9 of 19 (47.4 percent), but the Spurs shot 14 of 25 (56 percent) against them. Moody played 17 minutes and was minus-6 overall, but scored nine points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting.
Paul once again organized the bench perfectly. The 19-year-old veteran tallied a game-high 14 plus points in 29 minutes by grabbing 10 assists and one turnover.
Size and height mean nothing to Gary Payton II. It’s just another challenge for the son of one of basketball’s greatest talkers of all time. The second quarter was the most recent example.
Even for someone listed 14 inches longer than the GP2.
While Wimbaniyama looked to finish his play off his back, Payton had other ideas, blasting his effort into the stands.
Maybe the immediate jolt that is Payton’s lightning bolt is what the Warriors desperately need. They trailed 46-41 at that point and held an 18-9 advantage the rest of the second quarter, entering halftime leading 59-55. That’s the impact Payton brings to games, largely when healthy.
Payton shortly after entering the game hit a 3-pointer. so what. His energy can’t be duplicated, and that was probably the key ingredient the Warriors needed to win.
Super Dario does it again
There’s a real argument to be made that the Warriors’ second-best offensive player this season, at least so far, is playing on the veteran’s minimum contract. General manager Mike Dunleavy desperately wanted to sign Dario Saric in free agency. Sarek continues to show why.
Thompson scored only two points in the second half. Both came at the free throw line in the final 13 seconds. Thompson scored 15 points on 3-of-11 shooting and made just three of his seven 3-point attempts. Andrew Wiggins had just 10 points in the win.
In the 26th minute, Saric scored 20 points from the bench, becoming the Warriors’ second-leading scorer. The sprawling big man fired up his shot, finishing 7-of-11 overall and 4-of-7 from long range. Saric also added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. His plus-11 was second only to Paul’s.
This is the third game in which Saric scored 20 or more points this season. In his last three games, Saric has averaged 18.3 points on 60 percent shooting (18-of-30), scoring 18 points, 17 points and then 20 in Friday night’s win.
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