The Warriors stopped cold San Antonio's home winning streak at 39 games, while reaching historic win No. 72, marking the third time in four meetings -- and second time in four nights -- Golden State knocked off the Spurs. Still, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was satisfied with the team's effort. He is confident that San Antonio's experience mixed with a sharpened playoff focus, and a fresh game plan in late May could lift the Spurs over the Warriors when the stakes are highest in a potential Western Conference finals.
"We played a hell of a team, and I thought our aggressiveness, our attention to detail, was much better than [Thursday night's loss at Golden State]," Popovich said. "They did a lot of good things out there. I'm really happy with how we performed."
So instead of lamenting a loss they can't get back, the Spurs choose now to focus on closing out strong in preparation for the playoffs.
"It's a whole different ball game in the playoffs," David West said when asked whether the Warriors now hold a psychological advantage, having defeated the Spurs three times in the regular season. "Hopefully, it will be another two months, or whatever it is, a month and a half, until we see them again. Our job is just to keep improving and prepare ourselves now for a tough first-round matchup against whomever; just keep developing who we are."
The outing at the AT&T Center on Sunday played out much differently than Thursday's 112-101 trouncing at Oracle Arena, yet San Antonio still managed to come up short despite making significant progress against the Warriors defensively.
"I think in Golden State for sure we were not sharp enough," guard Manu Ginobili said. "Today we made a few mistakes. I think we played a good game. We were not good offensively. I'm not concerned. I was concerned after the Golden State game [on the road] because it was not us. I think a game like today can easily happen. We hadn't lost one game at home the whole season. It can happen that you lose one against a team that is one of the best teams ever. We can't start banging our heads against the wall and [saying], 'Oh, we are terrible.' It can happen."
San Antonio slowed down the pace significantly in Sunday's contest, giving Golden State its slowest paced game since defeating the Warriors 87-79 on March 17, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. The Spurs also limited Golden State to an ice-cold shooting percentage of 35.1, while dominating the visitors in offensive rebounding 13-3. San Antonio's 13 offensive rebounds in the first half go down as the most the club had snatched in a single half all season, not to mention the most the Warriors have allowed in any half over the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info. San Antonio's supremacy on the offensive glass helped the Spurs outscore the Warriors 11-0 on second-chance points.
The problem is while administering suffocating defense and crashing the offensive glass, the Spurs managed to shoot even frostier (28.6 percent) than the Warriors. Then, as Golden State caught fire in the third quarter, going on a 12-0 run with Stephen Curry racking up 16 points for his 30th quarter of 15 points or more this season, San Antonio remained cold (34.3 percent shooting).
What's more is the offensive rebounding subsided, too, with the Spurs grabbing just five more offensive boards in the entire second half.
"Our perimeter had a tough time making shots, that's for sure," Popovich said. "That was the problem offensively all night, but I couldn't be more proud of them. Steph got away from us for a while, but a part of it was some bad shots. We lost our poise for about a three-minute period, and we were in constant transition, and he got away from us. That was the difference in the ball game. But I'm really proud of the guys what they did tonight."
Curry finished with a game-high 37 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge paced the Spurs with 24 points and 10 rebounds. San Antonio perimeter players Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green combined to shoot 10-of-36. Golden State's backcourt duo of Curry and Klay Thompson outscored Green and Parker 51-6; not exactly a formula conducive to sustained success in San Antonio.
The Spurs' starters finished 0-of-9 from 3-point range Sunday, marking the second consecutive outing without a 3-pointer from the group. Prior to the loss Friday night at Denver, the Spurs had produced only one such game all season.
"Tonight was a terrible game offensively by most of us, myself mostly," Green said. "I shot terribly. A couple of us didn't have a great night shooting. Hopefully in the playoffs it will turn for us and we'll be more focused, more locked in. No excuses. We just didn't shoot the ball well. We played pretty solid defense until a couple spots in the second half."
Added Aldridge: "We definitely had some easy looks we didn't make. We had some breakdowns defensively. It's just about being sharp the whole game."
The Spurs failed to accomplish that feat in this outing, but they believe they've found the formula for mastering the offensive majesty of the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs finish the regular season with a home matchup on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, before playing the finale Wednesday on the road against the Dallas Mavericks.
"This is a different team that plays differently, a totally different matchup for us," Green said when asked what the Spurs have learned about the Warriors this season. "We have to play a different style of play ourselves to kind of match them and beat them. Tonight, we played more physically on defense, and got into them. And we're going to have to do that moving forward if we match up with them in the playoffs. It will be interesting, and I think it will be fun. We learned a lot tonight."