Spurs face quick turnaround with Warriors waiting in conference finals

Spurs face quick turnaround with Warriors waiting in conference finals

HOUSTON -- The San Antonio Spurs are thrilled to be in the Western Conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2014.

But they won't have much time to celebrate with a series against the well-rested Golden State Warriors starting on Sunday.

In fact, they were barely going to give themselves two hours to bask in their 114-75 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 6 before looking ahead.

"We're just going to enjoy this one right now until midnight, at least," Danny Green said. "I think this one prepared us for the next one. They're a fast-paced team that likes to shoot on the perimeter. We have to communicate even better and be more perfect because it doesn't get any easier."

While San Antonio fought through six games with the Rockets, the Warriors have been off since wrapping up a sweep of the Utah Jazz on Monday.

Along with the fatigue factor, there are also questions about the their lineup heading in Game 1 after All-Star Kawhi Leonard sat out on Thursday night after rolling his left ankle in Game 5.

Coach Gregg Popovich didn't provide many details about Leonard's injury on Thursday. When asked if he protested when he chose to sit him, Popovich said: "He'd rather play." But it still seemed to be bothering him quite a bit after the game when he headed to the bus still walking with a noticeable limp.

The Spurs will certainly need his stellar defensive skills to contend with a Warriors team that not only swept the Jazz, but also eliminated the Trail Blazers in four games in the first round.

"We understand that the team we're now facing is the most dangerous team in the league with a lot of weapons," Pau Gasol said. "You have to prepare for this team a different way. The challenges they present, in some ways, are similar to Houston as far as the ability to shoot the ball from the 3-point line, but they have different personnel overall."

The Spurs know that limiting Golden State's 3-point shooting will be a key in the next round, just as slowing Houston from long range was in the conference semifinals. Houston averaged 20.5 3-pointers in its two wins and just 13 in the four losses.

Leonard's ankle problem wasn't the only injury San Antonio dealt with in this series, as it came after the Spurs lost veteran Tony Parker to a season-ending quadriceps injury in Game 2.

Neither injury seemed to have a major impact on the team, except for the fact that it gave LaMarcus Aldridge a chance to emerge as a dominant scorer for the Spurs. The 11-year veteran, in his second season with the Spurs, averaged just 9.5 points in the first two games before averaging 23.5 in the last four, highlighted by a season-high 34 in Game 6.

"Once he got it going, we tried to keep going back to him," Patty Mills said of Game 6. "He was an absolute beast (Thursday), and that's who he is."

Aldridge is excited that he was able to play such a big role in helping the Spurs advance, but he isn't making too much of what will be his debut in the conference finals after failing to get out of the second round in his first six trips to the postseason.

"I just came here ready to play," he said. "Of course it's a good feeling to be going to the Western Conference finals. But I haven't thought about it. This team has worked hard all year and we've grinded and tried to get better, so I'm happy to finally win (the series)."

Though the Spurs won two of three regular-season meetings with Golden State, they know that this series will be much more difficult than their previous meetings this season.

But they're ready for the challenge.

"We're hungry, we're not satisfied," Mills said. "This was a good series and we're moving on, but we're not satisfied. Everyone is focused in on what we're trying to achieve here."

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss


Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.