After losing home-court advantage in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs on Wednesday, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker had an interesting comment regarding the series between the Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
“If you want to win in the playoffs,” said Parker after game two, “you have to win on the road.”
Parker and the Spurs did just that Friday night as the series shifted to Oracle Arena where ESPN added a noise meter to track the volume in the arena. Only on Friday, the noise meter never had a chance to rise often as the Spurs controlled the tempo and momentum for almost 48 minutes of the game.
"It's a huge win for us,” said Parker (32 points, 5 assists) of defeating the Warriors 102-92. “It was a must-win situation. I thought our team was very focused. By far our best game of the series."
Though the game was competitive, the injury bug bit both squads Friday night. Warriors guard Stephen Curry (16 points) sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and was limping excessively. He finished the game, but was hobbling the entire way.
Parker said he took a Jarrett Jack knee to his calf in the fourth quarter and though it’s a new injury, he said he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game four.
In game two, Spurs forward Tim Duncan said the Warriors had control of the tempo in the series. On Friday, the Spurs retook that control from the tip as Coach Popovich elected to start with Tiago Splitter in the starting lineup, as he had done routinely in the regular season.
After the game, Popovich said his team looked and played more comfortable with Splitter back in the starting lineup. That was the case as the Spurs jumped out on the Warriors early with a 32-23 lead in the first quarter.
The two French players, Parker and Boris Diaw, poured in 20 combined points in the first to guide the Spurs while Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard locked down Curry and Klay Thompson effectively.
The script reversed in Oakland as the home team Warriors were now the ones with shooting struggles, as they shot 44% in the first quarter while the Spurs shot a scorching 65%.
The Spurs set a trend that continued throughout the game as they shot 51% on the night and the Warriors finished shooting 39%. San Antonio’s largest lead was 11 and though the Warriors would tie a few times, they were never able to reclaim the lead as the Spurs would always push it back to 9-10 points to close each quarter.
"It's a make or miss league," said Warriors head coach Mark Jackson of his team shooting 39% from the field and 32% from 3-point range, an area they dominated in game two.
Parker kept his foot on the gas throughout the night as he had only missed three shots going into halftime and had already scored 25 points. Duncan chipped in with 23 points and 10 rebounds, along with two blocks. Leonard scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
In the third quarter, though he was struggling shooting the basketball, Manu Ginobili scored eight of his 12 points to keep the Spurs surging. Thompson also poured in 11 of his 17 points in the third, but he ended the night shooting 7-of-20 from the field.
“We had more guys play well,” said Coach Popovich after the game. From Green’s defense on Curry, to Cory Joseph giving solid minutes off the bench, Friday saw a Spurs team running more than just a 1-on-1 type of offense. Instead, there was ball movement and spacing as the team tallied 21 assists and just 11 turnovers.
Defensively, the Spurs were consistent throughout the night as they held the Warriors to 92 points on the night and a no more than 25 points in a quarter.
"We can't hang our heads,” said Thompson after the game. “That's the worst thing we can do."
For a young team that just had its momentum taken from them, and also not knowing the health status of their superstar, it’ll be interesting to see how the Warriors respond in game four on Sunday.
Jackson said if Curry doesn’t play Sunday, a huge dose of the Warriors’ offense will be run through Jarrett Jack who struggled in game three with 11 points and two turnovers on 5-of-12 shooting.
Thompson though, believes the Warriors’ star Curry will be back Sunday.
"I have faith in Steph,” said Thompson. “I think he'll bounce back."