Warriors

Spurs overcome Kawhi injury, beat Rockets in OT thriller to take 3-2 lead

Spurs overcome Kawhi injury, beat Rockets in OT thriller to take 3-2 lead

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs were in a tough spot after Kawhi Leonard hurt his ankle in the second half.

That's when Danny Green and the Spurs' supporting cast stepped up.

Green scored seven of his 16 points in overtime, helping San Antonio top James Harden and the Houston Rockets 110-107 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their second-round playoff series.

Harden had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He had a chance at a potential tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of OT, but was blocked from behind by Manu Ginobili.

"I remember saying to a couple of the guys this is what we live for, these moments, to play in these situations," Spurs point guard Patty Mills said. "Game 5, at home, you just try to soak it up and play hard. I guess that's where all the passion comes out, at those moments. The diving on loose balls, coming up with whatever it may be, you're throwing your body on the line in those situations."

Leonard had 22 points and 15 rebounds in 38 minutes before exiting with an injured right ankle. He stepped on Harden's foot while running back in transition with 5:37 left in the third quarter and then played limited minutes before sitting out overtime.

The Spurs already were without Tony Parker, who will miss the rest of the playoffs after surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.

"It was frustrating because I wanted to play," Leonard said. "But I was happy seeing my teammates out there putting in a good effort and getting the win."

Leonard said he will play in Game 6 on Thursday in Houston.

Green made a go-ahead 3-pointer and converted a three-point play to make it 109-107 Spurs with 30.1 seconds left. He also made a foul shot down the stretch to help San Antonio hold on.

"I think we all made a decision to be aggressive," Green said of Leonard's absence, "regardless of what was going to happen. We weren't going to lose the game being on our heels."

Two questionable plays closed regulation with the game tied at 101.

Harden was whistled for a charge after dribbling all but a few seconds off the shot clock before driving to the basket on Jonathon Simmons. The Spurs failed to take a shot on their final possession, with Mills banking in a 3-pointer after the buzzer sounded.

Harden also played solid defense, helping hold Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge to 15-for-42 shooting as he rotated assignments in Houston's smaller lineup.

"I was trying to keep them in front of me," Harden said. "Two All-Stars and even Pau (Gasol), who is 7-foot-something. I just tried to be aggressive and do the best that I can and help my team."

But the defensive effort and facilitating Houston's offense appeared to take a toll on Harden. He had four points on 1-for-6 shooting and four turnovers in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime. Harden, who finished with nine turnovers, said he was not fatigued despite playing 43 minutes.

"I just missed shots," Harden said.

The Spurs tried to exploit a size advantage over the Rockets' small lineup early, especially when Harden was guarding either Aldridge and Gasol. The Spurs' big men only managed 2-for-5 shooting in the opening three minutes, leading San Antonio to abandon the strategy midway through the first quarter and sub Simmons for Gasol.

Simmons responded by scoring 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 26 minutes.

TIP-INS:
Rockets: Houston has lost four straight best-of-seven series when it was tied 2-2. The last time the Rockets won a series after being tied 2-2 was in the 1995 Western Conference finals when they beat the Spurs. ... The Rockets have not lost to the Spurs in three previous postseason series. ... C Nene is out for the remainder of the postseason after tearing his left adductor in Game 4. ... The team that led at the half had won every game in the series until Game 5.

Spurs: Coach Gregg Popovich opted to start Mills after starting rookie Dejounte Murray in the previous two games in place of Parker. . Ginobili has 314 3-pointers in his postseason career, which is third in league history behind Ray Allen (385) and Reggie Miller (320).

MY BAD:
Popovich screamed at Gasol after the veteran center failed to set a screen for Mills on the final play in regulation. The miscue helped contribute to the Spurs failing to take a shot at the close of regulation, forcing overtime.

"I think I made a wrong read," Gasol said. "It was tough because when they put a small on you, you have a tendency to go in. I saw a switch, but I should have stayed up because (Patrick) Beverley went with LaMarcus and we could have played off that. I made a bad, bad read on that play."

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.