|Plenty on line when Warriors, Spurs collide|
Monday's game between San Antonio and Golden State is important because of the Spurs' push to clinch a spot in the playoffs and the Warriors' attempt to move closer to the NBA's best record.
But there will be plenty else on the line when the two teams square off at the AT&T Center in San Antonio -- chiefly, momentum as both teams try to create a mental edge against the other should they meet in the postseason.
The Warriors have done their part so far, beating San Antonio the first three times the teams have met this season, most recently a 110-107 come-from-behind victory in Oakland on March 8. Golden State has won the past four games against the Spurs, including the past two in San Antonio.
A win for Golden State would just allow it to continue that swagger, while a victory for the Spurs would give them to break that streak and forge something to build on.
The Spurs host the NBA's defending champs while on a three-game winning streak, their best run of victories since Dec. 23-28 when they captured three in a row. San Antonio's latest win was 107-101 over Minnesota at home on Saturday as LaMarcus Aldridge scored 39 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Two baskets by Aldridge, a 3-pointer by Danny Green, and a jumper by Rudy Gay in the middle of the fourth quarter turned a six-point Spurs' lead into a 107-92 advantage with 5:56 to play and gave San Antonio the breathing room it needed for the final stretch.
"A good quality win," Aldridge said afterward. "We played defense better. Guys made plays, steals, and guys were active. We kept our composure down the stretch and I thought this was like a playoff win for us, basically. We played a good team."
The Spurs' end-game prowess, something that has been taken for granted most times during San Antonio's stretch of 20 straight seasons in the postseason, has been anything but consistent this year.
That's why Saturday's win -- and the way the Spurs got it done -- was so important as the campaign heads to its final regular-season chapter. San Antonio has 12 games left on its schedule.
"We are in a good spot at this point," Spurs ageless reserve guard Manu Ginobili said. "I wasn't that optimistic a week ago about us getting all these wins, facing Minnesota and playing a good game. We got it. Now, we've got to keep building."
Monday's game completes a run of three games in four nights for Golden State, who beat Phoenix 124-109 on Saturday even with stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson on the sidelines.
Quinn Cook picked up the slack for the Warriors, scoring a career-high 28 points (including 16 in the third quarter). Nick Young added 20 points for Golden State, which earned its 13th consecutive win over the Suns time despite playing without Curry (ankle), Durant (ribs) and Thompson (fractured thumb).
Draymond Green contributed a season-high 25 points and added 11 rebounds and eight assists, narrowly missing a triple-double.
"I call Draymond the heartbeat of our team for a reason," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "When he is out there doing what he was doing tonight, playing with that kind of energy and focus, he is tremendous and leads our team no matter who's out there."
The Warriors are 13-7 when playing without Curry, 8-2 with Durant out and 2-1 without Thompson; Golden State is 2-4 without both Curry and Thompson. Despite the injuries, the Warriors are 9-3 since the All-Star break but have lost three of their past five games.
"Right now, the game is being played on a much smaller radius for us because we don't have all the shooting," Kerr said. "In the smaller radius, we're more dependent on screens and moving the ball."
The Warriors are hopeful that second-year guard Patrick McCaw can return for Monday's game in San Antonio after nursing a fractured left wrist in the past month.
San Antonio won 33 consecutive home games against the Warriors from the start of the 1997-98 season up until April 10, 2016 when it dropped a 92-86 decision to Golden State for its only home loss of the 2015-16 campaign. The Spurs own a 106-60 all-time edge against Golden State, including a 62-19 record at home.