Kevin Durant's game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds guided the Golden State Warriors to a critical 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals, following a 120-108 victory on Saturday night at the AT&T Center.
Stephen Curry contributed 21 points and three 3-pointers. After knocking down a trey early in the contest, Curry became the Warriors' all-time postseason scoring leader, surpassing Hall of Famer Rick Barry's 1,776 points. Curry now has 1,795 career postseason points, all with Golden State.
Klay Thompson finally found his stroke, producing 17 points on 7-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-6 from deep. (Thompson had a total of 17 points on 6 of 21 shooting in the first two games of this series.) Draymond Green added 10 points, seven points, seven assists and two blocks.
All five of the Warriors' starting five scored in double figures.
"I don't know why, but teams tend to forget about him or leave him," said Warriors acting coach Mike Brown.
For three quarters, the adrenaline and the crowd's enthusiasm inspired the home team. The Warriors considered this contest a "dangerous trap game." For three quarters, the Spurs hung in there.
San Antonio withstood Durant's 19-point tear in the third quarter to keep within striking distance. But there's too much talent, too much speed and too much depth in blue and gold.
The Spurs' defense was caught napping.
"He told me he would have a step on his man, and I trusted him and threw the pass," West told ESPN of his conversation with Clark. "He made a great play, and it was a momentum-swinging play too."
McGee's first-half play kept the Warriors from trailing by double digits. His teammates found him for lobs and easy assists around the basket.
"I just try to be in the right spot at the right time," McGee said. "The starters, they're the most unselfish people I ever played with in my life."
The Spurs went with a starting lineup of Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green and LaMarcus Aldridge. It was the first time this season that those five players had started together.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich announced on the morning of the game that Leonard would not be a go, but not everyone believed him.
"In those situations, I feel like you can never believe what Pop says," Durant said. "It feels likes mentally he's always a step ahead of everybody. So I didn't believe until the ball tipped up."
Aldridge needed to step up in the absence of Leonard. Although he played better, his 18 points on 7 of 17 shooting and five boards were not nearly enough.
Manu Ginobili scored 21 points off the bench, the most points he has scored in his past 40 playoff games.
The Spurs were dealt another injury blow early in the game. Backup big man David Lee exited the game in the first quarter because of a left knee injury. He had to be helped off the court and did not return. He converted a layup while being fouled by Green and landed awkwardly.
Because Lee was unable to shoot his free throw, Golden State was allowed to choose who would take the freebie. The Warriors selected seldom-used big man Joel Anthony, who is a career 66 percent shooter from the charity stripe. It worked, as Anthony bricked the shot.
When Durant went off in the third quarter, the majority of his helpings came out of the pick-and-roll with him as the ball handler. He hit some off-balanced shots, mixed in some backdoor cuts to the baskets off of high-low connections with West and dominated the isolation sets. He was feeling it so much in the quarter that he pulled up from deep, well beyond the arc, and buried a 3 -- and was fouled by Ginobili. The Warriors' lead climbed to 18.
"The third quarter, I just went out there and played, not worrying about anything," Durant said. "Just played every possession, tried to play hard as I can, and I was able to score."
San Antonio chipped at the deficit but could score only 20 points in the fourth.
It now seems inevitable that we're in store for Round 3 of an NBA Finals matchup between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Nah, it's not inevitable," Green said. "We've lost a lead before, so we got to come out Monday and try to close this thing out."
Game 4, the potential closeout game, is Monday.