Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leonard, Spurs spoil Durant's Warriors debut with blowout

 Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs put on such a basketball show they sent the loyal Golden State fans to a rare early exit. What a strange sight at Oracle Arena for opening night and Kevin Durant's long-awaited Warriors debut.
Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the Spurs emphatically spoiled KD's first game for Golden State in a 129-100 rout Tuesday that the Warriors could hardly believe had just happened.
"We got punched in the mouth," Draymond Green said. "I don't know if it was quite a bad thing for us."
Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for MVP Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game - and quite a different one after the Warriors dominated at home and came out of the blocks last season with a record 24-0 start.
Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds and Gregg Popovich thoroughly outdid a couple of his close friends on the opposite bench in reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr and top assistant Mike Brown.
Yes, San Antonio sent quite a message to the West.
"If there was an outcome I wasn't expecting, it was this one," San Antonio's Manu Ginobili said. "A 29-point lead against a team like them? I truly didn't expect it."
Curry, last season's first unanimous MVP, scored 26 points but was just 3 for 10 from 3-point range. Green had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while Klay Thompson was limited to 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The star-studded Warriors were sloppy, committing 16 turnovers, and got outrebounded 55-35. They are clearly still finding themselves just as Kerr expected - though maybe not quite like this while.
"No, I didn't see losing by 29 points," Kerr said. "It's going to be an ugly tape to watch. ... I think our guys were embarrassed tonight. I know I was."
San Antonio exhibited smooth, crisp ball movement and looked polished in a game that had a playoff feel on Day 1.
Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard shot 10 for 21 and made all 15 of his free throws.
Jonathon Simmons came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points, including a 3 to beat the halftime buzzer for a 64-46 advantage. His status had been in doubt for the opener because of a calf injury.
Green dunked off a pass from Curry early in the third to get Golden State within 10, only to pound his chest and yell before being hit with a technical.
The Warriors had flurries of greatness trying to get back in it. San Antonio answered each time - like when Golden State pulled within 50-42 in the second quarter before the Spurs closed the half on a 14-4 run.
"It's a nice little slap in the face," Curry said. "First game you want to come out and protect your home court and have the energy of the home opener live throughout the game. We didn't do anything to let that happen."
Durant made a 14-footer 65 seconds into the game and hit his first four shots. But he didn't have much help early.
San Antonio led 31-20 after the first, when the Warriors shot 7 for 20 with four baskets by Durant. Golden State's other players were 3 for 15, and the Warriors got outrebounded 17-9.
Durant, whose former Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, wants to make sure this result doesn't start a trend.
"What we can't do is let these games pile up," he said. "We can't panic. It's Game 1 of 82."
Spurs: Pau Gasol had two points in 18-plus minutes of his debut for San Antonio. ... The Spurs won at Oracle Arena for the first time since a 113-110 victory on Nov. 11, 2014. ... Leonard's previous career high was 33 on April 2 at Toronto.
Warriors: Durant has scored 20 or more points in 65 straight games. ... C Zaza Pachulia scored two points in his Warriors debut. ... Golden State's three-game home winning streak against the Spurs was snapped along with its run of four straight victories in season openers.
You bet it was strange for Popovich to play the first real game without Duncan. It's the first time since Popovich's initial season as head coach of the Spurs in 1996-97 to be exact.
"He was like a security blanket for everybody. Even if things went awry," Popovich said. "He was like the center of the universe and everybody knew how to act around that. With that pivotal guy gone, we'll have to wait and see who accepts that role."
A special giveaway T-shirt with Craig Sager's likeness hung on every seat for the sellout crowd to honor the eccentric, beloved TNT sideline reporter as he fights leukemia. Warriors coach Steve Kerr wore a different colorful version earlier, then a wild tie for the game.
Popovich offered a caring thought after Curry sent his best over the mic.
"He's just an iconic and weird and wonderful guy all at the same time, and I mean that lovingly," he said.
Spurs: They visit Sacramento on Thursday as the Kings open their new arena, Golden 1 Center.
Warriors: Golden State plays at New Orleans on Friday to begin a stretch of three straight on the road and four of five away from Oracle.

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