Playing basketball seemed trivial to the Spurs following the death of Erin Popovich.
They competed as best they could Thursday night. It just wasn’t enough against Golden State, again.
Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and the Warriors beat San Antonio 110-97 for a 3-0 series lead over the Spurs, who were still reeling from the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.
“It was a perfect setup for a letdown,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said. “I don’t say that to be insensitive at all to the situation. We all take this basketball stuff serious and we want to win, but when you start talking life and death, a game doesn’t matter. But yet we still wanted to come out and try to win the game.”
The Warriors can close the first-round series with a win Sunday afternoon in San Antonio in Game 4.
“It’s hard to think about that for me, personally, right now because there is other stuff bigger than basketball,” Spurs veteran Tony Parker said.
The Spurs were playing a day after the death of Erin Popovich, who passed away after battling an undisclosed long-term illness. Erin and Gregg Popovich were married four decades and have two children and two grandchildren.
San Antonio did not air a video tribute or hold a moment of silence for Erin in an apparent attempt to make the game as routine as possible for its players, but that was impossible.
Coach Popovich was not in his customary position roaming the sidelines, choosing instead to be with his family. San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina coached the team in Popovich’s place.
“We are all hurting,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said after the morning shootaround. “We want to be next to Pop, we want to support him, but we’ve got to go out there and compete today. But, for sure, we are toiling. It’s not an easy day to be here.”
Ginobili and Parker said it was tough to play basketball following Erin’s passing, but the team’s goal was to compete and play with the grit Popovich has always demanded of them.
Parker, who said Erin and Gregg were a mother and father to him when he entered the league as a 19-year-old, lived up to those wishes. Parker, who averaged 2.0 points in the first two games, finished with 16 points in 17 minutes.
LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spurs had an emotional start, but could not sustain it against the talented Warriors.
“This was about what I expected,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “First half they were getting after us like they did in Game 2 and we stayed with it, we had some bursts. The whole point is take care of the ball and defend over 48 minutes and things should work out.”
Already on the edge of their seats for the first home game of the playoffs, fans erupted when Rudy Gay threw down a one-handed dunk over Golden State’s JaVale McGee. The cheering was nearly constant as the Spurs scored the game’s first six points before the Warriors began to settle in.
Durant and Klay Thompson shot down San Antonio’s chances.
Thompson added 19 points, including 3-for-6 shooting on 3s.
Golden State closed the first half on a 20-9 run to eliminate a five-point deficit and take a 52-46 lead. Durant had 17 points in the first half to counter 10 points each from Gay and Parker.
Gay finished with 11 points.
The Warriors opened 1 for 14 on 3-pointers. Golden State finished 10 for 32 on 3s.
“Well, when the 3s are not going, we’ve just got to continue moving the ball and getting open looks,” Thompson said. “But if we’re getting open looks, they’re eventually going to fall, and we rely on our defense when we’re not making shots. Our defense can be a constant for us, shouldn’t always dictate how hard you play.”
Green added 10 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots.
Warriors: Durant rolled his ankle at midcourt with about 4 1/2 minutes remaining but rose on his own after remaining on the court for less than a minute. Kerr said Durant and Shaun Livingston, who also rolled his ankle moments later, are both fine and will play in Game 4.. . Warriors G Stephen Curry did not play but sat behind the team’s bench as he continues to rehabilitate a sprained knee. Curry is expected to return for the second round, if the Warriors advance. … McGee started after being listed as questionable with a bruised left quadriceps. He had six points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.
Spurs: Messina was coaching his first NBA playoff game, but he has won more than 10 titles in the Euroleague, Russian SuperLeague and Italian League. … Dejounte Murray had nine points and four assists in 16 minutes.
Kerr has been a friend of the Popovich family since his days playing for the Spurs at the turn of the century. In fact, Kerr grew so close with Erin Popovich that he almost got his longtime friend in trouble.
“Erin was sort of the balance that Pop needed,” Kerr said. “I still remember when he traded me to Portland in 2001, he called me up to tell me the news (and) he said, ‘I don’t think I can go home, because Erin is gonna be so mad at me for trading you.’ “