The appropriate fear that the Golden State Warriors thrive on emanated through the team Monday night.
After a disappointing Game 4, Klay Thompson told reporters that he did not want to fly back to San Antonio for Game 6 on Thursday. So what did he and the rest of the team do in the opening minutes of Game 5? They attacked the short-handed Spurs early and often.
The Warriors scored the first nine points of the game, and brought relentless energy, effort and hustle on defense. JaVale McGee, with the help of various Warriors bigs, held LaMarcus Aldridge to 7 points on 2 for 10 shooting in the first half.
The Warriors’ swarming defense produced easy buckets in transition-outscoring the Spurs 16-0 in fast break points.
Offensively, Thompson found his rhythm. He scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half including a buzzer beater at the end of the second quarter.
Other than the fast break points, the Warriors’ ball movement was also a key factor in a dominating first half. In Game 4, the Warriors went to a stifling, ISO heavy offense almost out of necessity. Game 5, showed players moving well without the ball. They didn’t force the “home run” passes. Instead, they focused on completing the “singles” that Coach Kerr alluded to before the game, and generally playing smart. A great example was when Thompson attacked a double team in the second quarter by driving to the basket. He kicked out the ball to a wide open Draymond Green ( 17points/ 19 rebounds/7 assists) who knocked down a corner three.
An even better example of the Warriors’ smart passing was in the 3rd quarter when David West slipped a screen and found a baseline cutting Shaun Livingston for the slam.
The best part about these passes were not the assists but the fact that the Warriors committed only 10 turnovers in the entire game.
Despite an energetic first half, the Warriors let a 16 point lead evaporate. The Spurs, even when they are down by 11, 13, and 16 points did not quit and stuck to their game play.
Eventually, the Spurs rallied behind Aldridge and Patty Mills. In the first half, Aldridge was smothered by various double teams. In the second, he didn't wait until the double team to attack. He went right at Kevon Looney, imitating contact and getting to the line. When Aldridge wasn’t trying to draw contact, he was nailing baseline jumpers over the double teams.
Mills was just as aggressive on both ends of the floor, his threes and timely drives to the basket kept the game manageable before the Spurs opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run
A Kevin Durant slam stopped the bleeding briefly. But the Spurs surged again with a 14-4 run to bring the score within four during the closings minuets of the game. At this point, the Warriors were leading as many as 12 points before hanging on to a 93-91 lead.
Eventually, Durant (who finished with 25 points/6 rebounds/ 5 assists )went on a personal 10 point run to close out the game.
FINAL SCORE: Warriors 99- Spurs 91. Warriors win series 4-1. The Western Conference Semifinals will begin Saturday at Oracle as the Warriors face off against the New Orleans Pelicans.
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