OAKLAND, Calif. – Still unbeaten, the Golden State Warriors have a few days to heal up again. Gregg Popovich’s time will be spent working to get his San Antonio Spurs to wake up, before it’s too late.
And determine whether injured superstar Kawhi Leonard might be healthy enough to return from an ankle injury, too.
Sure, the Warriors just pulled off a 36-point thrashing of the Spurs two days after squeaking out a 113-111 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals – their second-largest postseason win behind a game from 1948 when the Philadelphia Warriors won by 39 at St. Louis.
Draymond Green, for one, doesn’t believe the Warriors will get anything easy when they arrive in San Antonio for Saturday’s Game 3.
“They’re going to play as hard as they can until it’s over. So, we know we’re not taking their heart,” he said after Tuesday’s 136-100 rout. “At the end, all we did was what we were supposed to do, we took care of home court. Now the real challenge is going on the road and trying to get some wins.”
Starting center Zaza Pachulia was scheduled for an MRI exam Wednesday on his bruised right heel after an X-ray was negative. Key reserve and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala’s status was unclear after he missed Game 2 with soreness in his left knee.
“The schedule comes in and helps us out,” guard Shaun Livingston said. “We miss him out there, but he’ll get healthy and in the meantime it’s up to the rest of us to stay ready.”
They certainly did Tuesday.
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Golden State’s starters got plenty of rest in the fourth quarter on a night the bench delivered a season-best 63 points.
Popovich was left perplexed and downright disgusted that his team got dominated in such embarrassing fashion without Leonard, who re-injured his tender left ankle in Game 1 after stepping on Pachulia’s foot.
“Tonight, it’s not what I expected. I’m disappointed,” Popovich said. “The only way I can process this is I think it’s not about O’s and X’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that. I think we’ve maybe felt it too much, Kawhi being gone, in the sense that I don’t think – as I watched – I don’t think they believed.
“And you have to believe. I don’t think as a group they really did, which means probably a little bit feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use.”
Popovich had no guess about Leonard’s status for Game 3, saying it would likely be decided as late as Friday or Saturday.
San Antonio isn’t ready to let this best-of-seven series get away as it shifts home.
“It’s tough, but it’s a long series,” guard Patty Mills said. “Two games, now we’re going back home so there are still a lot of reasons to believe. We’re just going to keep pounding on that. There’s nothing else to do.”
The Warriors should get another nice boost from coach Steve Kerr, who is well enough that he plans to travel with the team to San Antonio on Thursday. Golden State has planned a day off Wednesday, then will practice in the Bay Area on Thursday before flying to Texas.
Kerr is recovering from a May 5 procedure at Duke University to repair a spinal fluid leak and Mike Brown has been coaching during his absence, but the reigning NBA Coach of the Year has been attending practices again and addressing the team in the locker room while watching games behind the scenes.
The Warriors just want to keep the momentum that has them at 10-0 this postseason. Both Kerr and Brown emphasized a better start on both ends in Game 2 to control the tempo from the opening tip.
“You just want to continue to build good habits, sustain the level of play. I don’t know how much it will carry over Game 2 to Game 3 going back to their place,” Curry said. “But for us mentally, we just know what we need to do to be successful against this team, even with Kawhi back in there, probably on Saturday. You’ve got to understand exactly the things that we did better tonight. That’s just being a lot more alert defensively to start and just making them work.”
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