OAKLAND, Calif. -- Gregg Popovich quickly reminded a reporter he might be "getting a little ahead" of himself in assuming the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors would match up again in the Western Conference finals.
After watching his team fall 112-101 in a mistake-filled affair at Oracle Arena on Thursday, Popovich knows the Spurs can't serve up similar performances in the postseason and expect to make it through the first two rounds. Even if somehow San Antonio managed to advance playing that way, the Spurs certainly wouldn't last long if the Warriors met them in the conference finals.
"Well, you can't make mistakes against these guys, the best team on the planet," Popovich said. "If you lose your concentration defensively or you shoot ill-advised shots, don't move the ball, [or] give it back to them quickly, you're in big trouble."
San Antonio checked off all those boxes in the first half alone.
Defensively, the Spurs allowed the Warriors to nail 21 of 24 uncontested attempts, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information -- Golden State's second-best percentage on such shots all season. Interestingly, the Warriors saw more open looks in the last meeting between the teams, which San Antonio won, but failed to connect on the shots (15-of-30 on uncontested shots in that March 19 outing, including 3-of-16 from three-point range).
This time Golden State hit the shots, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range uncontested. In all, the Warriors made 48 percent of their attempts from long range.
"They shot the ball [well] tonight," said Kawhi Leonard, who paced the Spurs with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting. "Just some miscommunication [issues] for us. It's just talking and knowing your assignments. So if we keep doing that and getting better at communicating, our defense is going to get better."
In the paint, Golden State knocked down 17-of-20 in the second half, including 13-of-14 in the third quarter alone. It's worth nothing the Spurs started Tim Duncan alongside LaMarcus Aldridge inside, after opting for Boris Diaw opposite Aldridge in the March 19 win over the Warriors.
The Spurs left Diaw in San Antonio for the current three-game trip, as he's nursing right adductor soreness. But at this point, he appears to be a better option against the mobile Warriors than the aging Duncan.
"We were not as intense as we were at home," reserve guard Manu Ginobili said. "And they are the type of team that for every little mistake, they make you pay. We didn't allow them to take as many 3s as they usually do. That's a good thing. But at the same time, some miscommunications [led to] too many layups. So we've got to check them out to see what really happened. Sometimes you are in the middle of a game, and you think something happened. Then, you see it on the tape and it's a completely different thing. [It was] a big learning game."
It was also a contest that veered quickly away from a potentially winning path. Aldridge attempted a reverse layup with 3:18 left in the opening quarter, but Andrew Bogut stuffed the shot. Aldridge dislocated his right pinkie finger on the play. Aldridge tried to re-enter the game quickly after Spurs trainer Will Sevening popped the dislocated finger back in place. As soon as he touched the ball, the finger again popped out.
So Sevening put the dislocated finger back into place, and taped it to Aldridge's right ring finger before giving him the go-ahead to return to action.
In the time Aldridge sat on the bench being tended to by Sevening, the Spurs made only 2 of 11 shots, and Golden State zipped off on a 14-2 run to take a 29-15 lead with 9:38 left in the half.
San Antonio never recovered.
Interestingly, the Spurs trailed by only two when Aldridge first suffered the injury.
"It freaked me out," Aldridge said. "I never had it happen to me before. I looked down, and it was going the other direction. So it definitely caught me off guard, and kind of threw me off tonight. It didn't really feel right the whole night. Every time I shot, it just didn't feel natural out there. So I was just trying to play through it."
Aldridge would make only 5-of-16 attempts for 11 points, in addition to pulling down three rebounds. Reserve Kyle Anderson led San Antonio with 11 rebounds, but no other player contributed more than four as Golden State outrebounded the Spurs 43-32.
In the first half, the Warriors outrebounded the Spurs 25-15, marking only the second time all season the visitors were outrebounded by 10 or more boards before halftime. The first time that took place, the Spurs lost 105-86 on Feb. 18 to the Los Angeles Clippers. This time around, the Spurs endured similar results.
"We started off great, then all of the sudden on the offensive end, the ball didn't move, didn't change sides, [we] took quick shots, contested shots along with six turnovers, and they jumped on it," Popovich said.
Now San Antonio needs to pick up the pieces before another meeting Sunday against Golden State; this time, at home, at the AT&T Center, where the Spurs remain undefeated.
"For sure, when you see their record, you know they are not a normal team," Ginobili said of the Warriors. "That's why it's important to play against them, and get familiar with that type of play. I've said it multiple times that they are a different team than the rest of the league. It's good to practice against a team like this in case we have to face them again. So we learn."