OAKLAND — After Andre Iguodala sank his third 3-pointer less than five minutes into the first quarter, the veteran went careening toward the Golden State Warriors bench, his arms aloft in celebration.
Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, needed time.
Game 2 was spinning fast on the guests. And Oracle Arena was roaring.
The Warriors had bolted out to a 15-8 advantage. Iguodala (9 points) had outscored the Spurs all on his own. Golden State was flying toward a second rout in as many games and a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
That’s when Popovich, the master of adjustments, hit pause.
“When Game 1 goes relatively smoothly, I’ve seen this a million times. Game 2’s are always really difficult,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors’ 116-101 win. “For two days, Pop’s been all over them. The media’s been all over them. Our guys are feeling great, and next thing you know, we’re down and they’re dominating the game.”
The Spurs dragged the pace of the game to a crawl and the Warriors — as they’d done so much during the regular season — got sloppy.
The first harbinger came on the opening possession, when Draymond Green threw the ball right out of bounds. That was the first of seven opening-stanza turnovers, one off the single quarter postseason record during the Kerr era.
The Warriors had 11 turnovers in the first half. Aside from Iguodala’s trio of triples, the team had just one 3-pointer, belonging to Klay Thompson.
The Splash Brother insisted it wasn’t disinterest, the bane of the regular-season Warriors, that precipitated the rough start.
“I don’t think it was focus,” Thompson said. “It’s the playoffs. It’s hard to have a smooth game every games — especially against the Spurs. I’m sure they were motivated and they played so hard in that first half.
With Green in early foul trouble, the Warriors scrambled for an answer to stop LaMarcus Aldridge, who bullied his way to 17 points and five rebounds heading into the break.
“They made it tough on us,” Thompson continued. “They were physical. They were knocking us off our cuts, fighting over every screen, forcing turnovers. So, some of it was on us — not being very sure with the ball — but give them credit. They responded pretty well to that first game.”
After lighting up Game 1 — raining in 11 of 13 field goals and five of six 3-pointers — Thompson was off the mark early.
“It doesn’t matter whether I make five in a row or miss five in a row,” Thompson said after going 3-for-7 in the first half. “I’m going to have the same mentality next time down the court. That’s be aggressive and make a good play.”
The confidence paid dividends for Thompson and the Warriors, who stuck to a familiar script after the break. Thompson was 9-for-13, the Warriors delivered a trademark third-quarter burst, sprinting out to a 14-3 rally out of the locker room before stepping on the Spurs’ throat late.
Thompson ended the night with 31 points — second only to Kevin Durant, who tallied 32 while shooting 10-for-19.
Through the opening two games of the series, Thompson is now 23-for-33 from the field and 10-for-14 from beyond the arc. He thinks the late-season rest he accrued while resting his fractured thumb has helped. But Thompson isn’t trying to fill the Stephen Curry-sized void in the backcourt.
“I don’t need to do that,” Thompson said. “I just go out there an be myself. Be free minded [and] have fun. It is basketball. It’s supposed to be a lot of fun, which it is. And then just play hard. No one can make up Steph’s contributions individually. That’s got to be done as a team and even then it’s hard with the way he can shoot the ball.”
Thompson and the Warriors have the chance to bury the Spurs in a 3-0 hole when the series moves to San Antonio on Thursday night.
Iguodala, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists looks forward to that opportunity.
“This is actually a really good matchup for us, this team, because they bring out the best in us,” Iguodala. “So, keep focus. They’re never going to die — no matter what. They’re going to come and play their best basketball.”