SAN ANTONIO – Gregg Popovich urged his San Antonio Spurs to raise their energy to almost maniacal levels, because winning the battle on the boards and for loose balls was critical against the athletic Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs responded to their coach’s message, outworking and outmuscling Golden State to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Tony Parker had 25 points and 10 assists, and the Spurs held the Warriors’ starting backcourt to 13 points for a 109-91 victory Tuesday night.
The Spurs outrebounded the Warriors 38-36, forced 14 turnovers and limited them to 16 second-chance points.
“Our energy was good,” Parker said. “We got the 50-50 ball; that was huge for us tonight. It was a tough turnaround for us in Game 4. We missed an opportunity at the end and we realize that. Tonight we played for 48 minutes.”
Kawhi Leonard added 17 points, Danny Green scored 16 and Tim Duncan had 14 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.
Harrison Barnes scored 25 points, Jarrett Jack added 20 and Carl Landry 16 for Golden State, but Stephen Curry was held to nine points.
“I was terrible, plain and simple,” Curry said. “They outplayed us as a team. Individually, I didn’t have anything on either end. (I was) a step slow, my shot wasn’t falling and I was trying to make plays but defensively I lost a little focus.”
Parker took advantage, going 9 for 16 and turning the ball over only twice in 34 minutes.
His energy was just as big a spark.
Parker dove over Jarrett Jack midway through the third quarter to corral a loose ball, rising to lead a fast break that resulted in a dunk by Green.
Even Popovich displayed more energy, chasing referee Ed Malloy down the sidelines from the free throw line to just past midcourt while screaming and motioning for a timeout with 9 minutes left in the game.
The added energy was especially evident against Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Spurs held Mark Jackson’s self-proclaimed “greatest shooting backcourt” in NBA history to 6-for-22 shooting. Curry was 1 for 7 on 3-pointers, while Thompson was held to four points while not even attempting a 3.
“The series for us is all about the defence,” Popovich said. “(Leonard and Green) did a good job; (there were) other people who did good work out there. We got a lot of mismatches. They love those mismatches, so we have to play intelligently. I thought we did that tonight.
“But we followed up the defence with a board. There is no stop until the board is secured. That was our main emphasis going into the game.”
Curry has not missed any time since turning his left ankle late in Game 3, but the injury seemed to limit his explosiveness.
Leonard stripped Curry and then outran him to the ball midway through the first quarter, feeding Parker for an uncontested layup. Curry appeared to grimace when he attempted to push off to sprint for the loose ball.
“It is sore, but I came in feeling good,” Curry said. “I was pretty optimistic about how I could play tonight, but it didn’t go that way.”
He played only 4 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter, leaving the game for good with 4 minutes left and San Antonio leading 102-84.
“It got to a point where they had made plays and I had to look towards Game 6,” Jackson said. “It was just being smart, that’s all. I didn’t want to see him get hurt. Obviously, he wasn’t 100 per cent. I just felt if we were going to make a run, let’s make a run and then maybe get him back in, but it was just a long night for us.”
The Spurs led for all but the opening 6 minutes of the game and moved one game closer to advancing to their 12th conference finals in franchise history.
“Nobody talks about getting this over with like you’ve got a rash,” Popovich said. “Like you can take a pill or put some cream on it, it’s going to be gone. This is a war. They’re a class team; they bust their ass at both ends of the floor. It’s not about getting rid of anything. It’s about going and playing and that’s about it.”
San Antonio went on a 12-2 run to take a 102-84 lead with 4 minutes remaining. The Warriors missed two shots and had two turnovers to facilitate the Spurs’ run.
San Antonio shot 72 per cent in the first quarter, pounding the ball inside for layups and kick outs to open shooters in taking a 10-point lead.
Duncan battered Andrew Bogut early, making San Antonio’s first three baskets on a drive and a jumper over the Australian and on a layup against Landry off a hard pick by Tiago Splitter.
San Antonio went on a 15-0 run on a series of drives to the basket and low-post moves, taking a 27-15 lead.
Curry and Thompson were held to a combined four points on 2-for-10 shooting in the opening 16 minutes, but Barnes had 13 points and Jack seven.
“We just missed shots,” Curry said. “Early in the game I got a little off balance a couple (times) trying to get a foul. They play good defence. We didn’t get into a rhythm. We just missed shots.”
Curry did not make his first 3 until there were 2 minutes left in the first half.
The Spurs stopped going inside in the second quarter, helping Golden State rally.
The Spurs returned to attacking the basket in the third, resulting in another double-digit lead.
NOTES: Duncan surpassed Shaquille O’Neal and tied Wilt Chamberlain for second on the career post-season list in double-doubles with his 143rd. Magic Johnson heads the list with 157 during his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers. . Parker passed Chauncey Billups for fourth in post-season assists among active players with 832. New York’s Jason Kidd (1,258), the Lakers’ Steve Nash (1,061) and Boston’s Rajon Rondo (845) are ahead of Parker. . Richard Jefferson, who played with San Antonio from 2010-2011, continues to receive a chorus of boos from the Spurs’ fans whenever he enters the game or makes a shot.