Warriors

Spurs lose at home to Blazers; Warriors take one-game lead in West

Spurs lose at home to Blazers; Warriors take one-game lead in West

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Damian Lillard scored 36 points and the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-106 on Wednesday night, spoiling LaMarcus Aldridge's return from a health scare.

C.J. McCollum added 26 points for the Trail Blazers, who were coming off a 23-point loss in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds after missing two games with a minor heart arrhythmia. He was cleared Wednesday morning and does not have any playing restrictions.

Kawhi Leonard had 34 points to lead San Antonio (52-15), which had won 11 of 12 entering the game but fell one game behind Golden State for the league's best record.

Trailing 104-97 with 1:45 remaining, San Antonio closed within two points as Aldridge scored five consecutive points on a layup and a powerful dunk that led to a three-point play. After Leonard missed a short runner, McCollum made a pair of free throws to end the Spurs' streak and give Portland a 106-102 lead.

Patty Mills then hit a 3-pointer from the right corner off a feed from Leonard, but Lillard made four straight free throws to seal the victory for the Trail Blazers.

Aldridge finished 9 for 24 from the field and played 32 minutes. He made his first two attempts, a 17-foot jumper and a 21-footer, drawing loud cheers from the sold-out crowd.

San Antonio raced to a 14-7 lead, but Portland went on an 11-2 run to quiet the crowd and keep the game within seven points throughout.

Leonard finished 12 for 21 from the field, including consecutive dunks, in scoring 30-plus points for the 25th time this season. The 6-foot-7 forward first sprinted in from the free-throw line for a one-handed stuff against Noah Vonleh and then spun under the basket for a dunk against the 7-foot Jusuf Nurkic.

Portland closed the third quarter on a 9-3 run in taking an 82-80 lead to set up their fourth-quarter heroics.

TIP-INS:
Trail Blazers: Lillard has scored 30 points in six of 11 games since returning from the All-Star break. ... Portland was without F Ed Davis (left shoulder), C Festus Ezeli (left knee) and F Evan Turner (right hand). ... Nurkic had 16 points after scoring just two against New Orleans on Tuesday. ... The Blazers improved to 7-4 when Lillard, McCollum, Vonleh and Nurkic and Maurice Harkless start. ... Portland is 80-83 against San Antonio overall after snapping a five-game skid against the Spurs.

Spurs: Aldridge has scored 1,000 points for a 10th straight season, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the only active players with that streak. ... G Tony Parker missed his fourth straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 16 games this season after sitting out 10 games last year. ... Leonard has scored in double figures in 94 straight games dating to Jan. 14, 2016.

UP NEXT:
Trail Blazers: At Atlanta on Saturday night.

Spurs: At Memphis on Saturday night.

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

MINNEAPOLIS — One day after the Warriors lost by more than 30 points to the Boston Celtics in early March, Draymond Green stressed that his team needed to attain three goals during the final stretch of the season: Better execution, improved defense and homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

Weeks later, following another embarrassing home loss to the Phoenix Suns, the defending champs seemed to fall short of all three ahead of a strenuous four-game road trip featuring three playoff teams. 

After wrapping up that trip with three wins -- including Tuesday's 117-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves -- the Warriors seem to be finding their rhythm at just the right time.

"Great trip," coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors' win. "To go 3-1 against the caliber of competition with the difficulty of the back-to-back ... really good trip." 

Tuesday's victory encapsulated Green's vision from nearly two weeks ago. Entering the matchup tied with the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference, the Warriors had one of their best offensive performances.

They dished out 39 assists to just 13 turnovers, and held the Timberwolves to 40 percent from the field. Stephen Curry, who struggled to find his shot in recent games, scored 22 of his game-high 36 points in the third quarter. 

The win over Minnesota also capped a four-game trip where the Warriors ended the Rockets' nine-game winning streak, and produced their best defensive performance of the season against the Thunder. Plus, they added Andrew Bogut into the fold as DeMarcus Cousins sat with an ankle injury. Over the trip, Golden State held opponents to 41.3 percent from the field and just 29.9 percent from 3-point range. 

Last season, the Warriors finished with a 7-10 record over the last 17 games. They also dealt with injuries to Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and were locked into the West’s No. 2 seed for much of the final stretch.

After the All-Star break this season, the Warriors lost five of their first nine games. The loss at home to the lowly Suns prompted a different approach on the road. 

"It's definitely a different mindset," Kerr said. "Each game takes on more importance. Last year, I think the final 20 games, we kind of knew we were going to be the two seed, so its a little different this year, and I think it's going to help us." 

In the first game of the trip, Golden State beat Houston behind 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from Cousins. Three nights later, the Warriors held the Thunder to just 32.3 percent shooting, including a 2-of-16 performance from All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. 

"The first two games were important to us, especially after that Phoenix loss," Durant said Tuesday. "To come out and beat two teams on the road, it was probably the best two-game stretch of the season for us, and we needed that, we needed to feel good about ourselves, going on the plane, going to practice the next day."

[RELATED: Steph hits 300 3-pointers in a season ... again]

Now, with 12 games left in the season, the goals Green laid out following the loss to Boston still are within reach.

Following Tuesday's win, Golden State is a half-game up on Denver for the West's top spot, armed with a tiebreaker and a home matchup April 2. For a team that's won three championships in the last four years, this is familiar territory.

"It's always good to set goals and reach something, but for us, we know exactly where we want to be," Durant said. "We've reached the point twice, and we had fun doing it. We were a two seed last year, and we started off on the road in the Western Conference Finals and won Game 1, so it's about playing great basketball. I think everybody's in a great rhythm, groove, I think that's way more important than trying to get a seed." 

"We know what we're capable of," Curry added. "It's just a matter if we do it on a night-to-night basis."

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

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USATSI

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

After spending much of the past three months in hoops hibernation, Jonas Jerebko resurfaced Tuesday night and reminded the Warriors why they hired him last summer.

The 6-foot-10 forward came off the bench in the second quarter and stunned not only the Minnesota Timberwolves but also the Warriors by lighting up the scoreboard at a level usually reserved for the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Jerebko took three 3-pointers and made them all. His 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from the free-throw line translated to 14 points in nine minutes.

Who was that guy?

“I haven’t played him much at all, and the guys were taking a lot of joy from Jonas’ performance,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after a 117-107 win at Target Center. “He’s just a pro. He comes out there and hasn’t played in about a month and stays ready and does that. That’s why he is who he is.”

Jerebko scored 18 points in 18 minutes -- the first time he hit double figures since Dec. 22, when he rang up a season-high 23 points in a win over the Dallas Mavericks. For someone who hadn’t seen much action, Jerebko's timing and rhythm was flawless.

The Warriors signed Jerebko in hopes of getting some offense off the bench. To be specific, they identified the veteran power forward as someone capable of stretching the floor, making life easier for his teammates.

And for a while, they were getting what they wanted, with Jerebko drilling 37 3-pointers in his first two months as a Warrior.

But he made just 18 triples over the next three months. His shot deserted him, his minutes vanished and he became a cheerleader.

The roles were reversed Tuesday. His teammates were enjoying the Jerebko Show.

“If he knocks down those shots and keeps shooting them with confidence, he builds off that,” Kevin Durant said. “He made his first few. And then he got going. He’s driving to the rim, he’s shooting hook shots. You knock a few shots down, then your confidence is through the roof.”

Jerebko kept busy by putting in work. There were times when he wondered where he fit, if he still fit and whether he’d have another chance. He only knew that if the opportunity came, he would have to produce.

“Stay in the gym,” he said. “Get early to practice, get shots up and work on your conditioning and always stay ready. Control what you can control.

“It helps when you’ve been in the situation before, which I have. I’m confident in my abilities, so like I said, I’ve just got to stay ready and help the team out whenever they need it. That’s all I can do, and tonight was a good night.”

With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the coaching staff is assessing the roster, evaluating individuals and pondering matchups for the playoffs. They believe there will be games when Jerebko can make an impact.

If his shot is falling as it did Tuesday, that would apply to any game and any opponent.

“He fits their system well, and he can shoot the ball well,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “If you allow him to be comfortable, he’s a difference maker for that team.”

[RELATED: Steph reaches 300 3-pointers in a season for third time]

Not every defense will allow him or anybody else the privilege of comfort. Jerebko knows that. The Warriors know that.

They only hope one comfortable night can lead to a few more in the coming weeks.