Kawhi Leonard hobbles down the court after hurting his ankle in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in Oakland. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Kawhi out, Warriors aim to avoid letdown

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is holding Kawhi Leonard out of Game 3.

That leaves the Spurs without an MVP candidate and the Golden State Warriors in good position to continue their undefeated streak in the postseason.

So, with this series out of the way, the Warriors can start game-planning for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who beat the Boston Celtics by 44 despite playing at the TD Garden on Friday. Right?

Not so fast, according to Shaun Livingston.

“Anytime the best player is out, it’s always a trap game,” Livingston said at shootaround on Saturday. “Human nature is to let your guard down because they don’t have an MVP candidate, it make it an automatic win.

“It doesn’t work like that in the NBA, that’s actually backwards. It’s harder to win when the best player is out because you have guys coming off the end of the bench who you haven’t game planned for, and they can put up big games if you’re not ready.”

Questionable logic aside, the Warriors have traditionally struggled at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Golden State is 2-25 playing in the building since it opened in 2002.

Most of those contests came during a different Warriors era — when they were regularly a doormat of the league. And the Spurs piled up those wins on the backs of Hall of Famers. Leonard and Tony Parker are out tonight, and Tim Duncan can’t be reinstated in time for tipoff.

But, there’s no way San Antonio plays as poorly as it did in Game 2, when the Dubs blew the Spurs out of Oracle Arena, 136-100.

More specifically, there’s no way LaMarcus Aldridge is as timid as he was in that contest. Not after being called out by Popovich in the postgame press conference.

“Scoring has to come from someplace. I think he’s got a major responsibility in Game 3 to come out and get something done,” Popovich said. “Whether it’s for himself or his teammates. He’s got to do it. No doubt about it.”

Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown — a former assistant for the Spurs — is preparing for Aldridge to turn it around.

“I’m sure he’s — somehow some way — wants to erase what he went through in Game 2 in Oakland by coming out and having a great, aggressive game tonight and trying to help his team get a win,” Brown said.

The Spurs will absolutely need it if this is going to be a series.

Injury notes

Warriors center Zaza Pachulia is out with a bruised heel. Andre Iguodala (left knee soreness) is probable.
Brown said that JaVale McGee will most likely take over for Pachulia in the starting lineup.

Steve Kerr in the building

steve kerr
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watches shootaround in the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Saturday. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Contact Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.Golden State WarriorsKawhi LeonardMike BrownNBA PlayoffsSan Antonio SpursShaun Livingston

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Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watches shootaround in the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Saturday. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

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