SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors and San Antonio Spurs for long stretches Friday night played like two teams still waking up from a Thanksgiving nap. The Chase Center crowd also can’t be excluded from that conversation.
It was a struggle at times, but the Warriors came out on top in the end, beating the Spurs 118-112 in the NBA In-Season Tournament West Group C game.
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The Warriors improve to 2-1 during the In-Season Tournament, and their group-play finale against the Kings on Tuesday in Sacramento has massive implications on who wins Group C and advances to the quarterfinals.
The Warriors, Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves all are 2-1 in group play with one game to go. If the Timberwolves lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, the winner of the Warriors-Kings game at Golden 1 Center wins Group C.
Steph Curry, behind an 11-point third quarter, 12-point fourth quarter and 23-point second half, was the game’s leading scorer with 35 points on 11-of-20 shooting and went 7 of 13 behind the 3-point line. Curry now has 200 career games making at least six 3-pointers in a game.
Golden State Warriors
The next-closest player has 97 such games.
Spurs rookie star Victor Wembanyama had a near double-double with 22 points and eight rebounds, but his six turnovers were the most by any player.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors improving to 8-9 on the season and staying alive in the In-Season Tournament.
Starting Lineup Change
The Warriors have found little consistency early this season, including in their starting lineup. Steve Kerr made yet another change in the 17th game of the year, sending Chris Paul to the bench and making Moses Moody a starter. Moody was joined by Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
That five-man group entered the night playing 29 minutes together in five games, and had produced an 11.1 net rating off a 109.5 offensive rating and a 98.4 defensive rating. They stayed together in the first quarter until Chris Paul replaced Moody and Dario Saric came in for Looney at the 5:48 mark. The Warriors trailed 21-17 at the time, and Wembanyama was set to take two free throws. Moody when first going to the bench was the Warriors’ leading scorer with six points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting.
Kerr’s decision didn’t exactly work.
Curry, Moody, Wiggins, Thompson and Looney spent 11 minutes and 33 seconds together on the court and were minus-10, being outscored 34-24. They shot from 9 of 19 (47.4 percent), but the Spurs shot 14 of 25 (56 percent) against them. Moody played 17 minutes and was a minus-6 overall, but he did score nine points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting.
Paul once again perfectly orchestrated the bench. The 19-year veteran was a game-high plus-14 in 29 minutes thanks to him having 10 assists and one turnover.
Size and height mean nothing to Gary Payton II. It’s just another challenge to the son of one of basketball's all-time great trash talkers. The second quarter was the latest example.
Even for someone listed 14 inches taller than GP2.
As Wembanyama looked to finish a nifty behind-the-back play, Payton had other thoughts, swatting his attempt into the stands.
Maybe the instant jolt that is a Payton lightning bolt is what the Warriors desperately needed. They trailed 46-41 at the time and held an 18-9 advantage the rest of the second quarter, entering halftime up 59-55. That's the effect Payton has on games, pretty much whenever he’s healthy.
Payton soon after first entering the game airballed a 3-pointer. So what. His energy can’t be replicated, and it might have been the main ingredient the Warriors needed to pull off a win.
Super Dario Does It Again
There’s a real argument that the Warriors’ second-best offensive player this season, at least so far, is playing under a veteran’s minimum contract. General manager Mike Dunleavy badly wanted to sign Dario Saric in free agency. Saric keeps showing why.
Thompson scored only two points in the second half. Both came at the free throw line in the final 13 seconds. Thompson totaled 15 points on 3-of-11 shooting and made only three of his seven 3-point attempts. Andrew Wiggins only had 10 points in the win.
Saric in 26 minutes off the bench scored 20 points as the Warriors’ second-leading scorer. The stretch big man had his shot going, finishing 7 of 11 overall and 4 of 7 from long distance. Saric also added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. His plus-11 was second to only Paul.
This is the third game in which Saric has scored 20 or more points this season. Saric in his last three games is averaging 18.3 points on 60 percent shooting (18 of 30), scoring 18 points, 17 points and then 20 in Friday night’s win.