Golden State Warriors advance to NBA Finals with sweep of San Antonio Spurs

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange  |  May 23, 2017 at 8:53 AM
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SAN ANTONIO -- The celebration was subdued on Monday after Golden State made history in its four-game sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.

The Warriors refuse to be deterred from their ultimate goal of a second NBA title in the past three years.

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and Kevin Durant added 29 points and 12 rebounds as the Warriors strolled to a 129-115 win over the short-handed but game San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center, in the process earning the right to play either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors will have nine days to rest for that series, which begins in Oakland, Calif., on June 1.

The Warriors have swept all three of their playoff series and are the first team in NBA history to start the postseason 12-0, eclipsing the record established by the 1989 and 2001 Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State has won 27 of its past 28 overall games (including the regular season) and has won six straight road playoff games, a franchise record.

"It's a great run, and we had an opportunity to get it done tonight, but more importantly, it was obviously just a closeout kind of mentality and trying to take care of our business and play a good 48-minute game," Curry said. "For the most part, we did.

"We had some slip-ups and some mental errors, but for the most part it was a solid night. Contributions from everybody.

"Going 12-0 is great, but it doesn't mean anything going into the next series, and we have to understand that."

The Spurs announced about 90 minutes before tipoff that both injured star forward Kawhi Leonard (left ankle) and reserve forward David Lee (left knee) would miss the game, likely dooming any chance San Antonio had to extend the series.

But even with a full complement of players, the Spurs -- or any opponent for that matter -- would have been hard-pressed to beat Golden State the way the Warriors are playing. Despite the fact that the Warriors have cruised to their spot in the Finals, they are adamant that they can play better.

"There are things on both sides of the ball that we can clean up, and that's what's, I guess, got our guys' attention or focus," Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown said. "We've been preaching certain things, and for the most part, they've been doing it, but to get to our ultimate goal of winning the whole thing, we've got to be better on both ends of the floor."

Draymond Green contributed 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for Golden State. Ian Clark tallied 12 points, and Klay Thompson scored 10 points (on 3-of-13 shooting) for the Warriors. Golden State outshot the Spurs 55.8 percent to 42.3 percent, had 53 rebounds to San Antonio's 41 and dominated despite 17 turnovers that led to 22 San Antonio points.

Kyle Anderson led the Spurs with 20 points, and Manu Ginobili added 15 in what might have been the final game of his 15-year NBA career.

Ginobili left the game in the final minutes to chants of "Manu, Manu" and "one more year." He has said he will take three or four weeks off before deciding whether he wants to return to the league next season, when he will be 40 years old.

"The opponent was, in this case, way better than us," Ginobili said of the Warriors' domination off the series. "When you lose by an average of 20 points per game in the last three games, you look at them in the eyes and say, 'Congratulations, man, you beat us fair and square. You were better than us.' It's the easiest thing to do."

San Antonio's Patty Mills and Pau Gasol hit for 14 points each, and Jonathon Simmons scored 13. LaMarcus Aldridge, arguably the Spurs' most important player after Leonard, scored just eight points and did not play in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors shot 50 percent in the first quarter against San Antonio's makeshift lineup, built as much as a 14-point advantage and led 31-19 after 12 minutes as Curry pumped in 13 points despite shooting just 1 of 6 from 3-point range. The Spurs hit just 9 of 31 shots in the first quarter and wasted the momentum and boost from the crowd that was provided by the ageless Ginobili's first start in a playoff game since 2013.

Golden State was even better from the floor in the second quarter, hitting 14 of 19 shots and leading by as many as 19 points before settling for a 65-51 advantage at halftime. Durant and Curry each had 18 points in the half to lead the Warriors, while Anderson led San Antonio with 10 points.

The Warriors worked to finish off San Antonio in the early stages of the third quarter, moving to a 78-56 lead on two Green free throws at the 8:25 mark. But the Spurs would not quit, forging a 19-7 run to cut the lead back to 85-75 on a jumper by Bryn Forbes with 2:49 to play in the period. Golden State responded with an 11-3 surge of its own to end the period and took a 96-78 cushion into the final period.

The fourth quarter was mostly mop-up time for the Warriors, who never let San Antonio get within 13 points while closing out the victory.

"Everybody tries to put together as much talent as they can, and that's what (Golden State) did," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Make no mistake -- they're really talented. But that's not the whole equation. That's not everything that describes them.

"(Golden State is) maybe the best defensive team in the league on top of everything. So they don't just play with talent. They execute at the defensive end of the floor. On offense, no team is more unselfish finding the open man and that sort of thing. Coaches are always trying to get their team to do that. But they've got a multitude of people who are unselfish in that regard and play a beautiful game. They're way, way more than just their talent."

NOTES: Golden State has won at least one road game in each of its past 14 playoff series dating back to the first round in 2013, extending a franchise record. Gs Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and F Draymond Green and have played with the Warriors for all 14 of those postseason series. ... Since the Spurs joined the NBA in 1976, they have made 10 conference finals appearances, which ranks as the most in the league in that time frame. San Antonio is also tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most NBA championships during that span (five). ... Spurs G Manu Ginobili is the only player in NBA history besides LeBron James to record at least 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 3-pointers in the postseason. ... The Spurs are now 0-3 under coach Gregg Popovich is series in which they lost the first three games.

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