After Kawhi Leonard leaves Game 1 with ankle injury, Warriors beat Spurs, 113-111

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Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle — twice — during Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors, and that marked the slow decline for the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. Despite a huge deficit to start the game, Stephen Curry roared back to score 40 points and lead the Warriors to a 113-111 victory over San Antonio.

The first half was all Spurs, who forced the Warriors into multiple turnovers in the first two periods. Golden State looked sloppy early, putting passes across the court that San Antonio easily jumped on.

Thanks to a huge first half from Leonard, the Spurs were able to build a 62-42 lead going into halftime. Perhaps more importantly, it signaled that the Western Conference Finals might not be the easy path for the Warriors that many predicted. An unstoppable force in Golden State was met by the immoveable object of the Spurs.

The game looked much the same as the second half started, but it was early in the third quarter when San Antonio lost Leonard for the game with an ankle injury after he turned it twice in a matter of a few minutes. The first came when Leonard hit a jumper on the left side, then stepped on a teammate’s foot as he was changing the floor. The second came a few minutes after that, when Leonard again hit a jumper and Zaza Pachulia slid under him.

Leonard’s injury saw the Spurs struggle, even as LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili tried to keep San Antonio afloat. Golden State went on a huge run throughout the middle of the third quarter and early fourth, eventually taking the lead with 4:09 left in the game on a Kevin Durant jumper.

Aldridge was the guy Gregg Popovich had to lean on for most of the fourth quarter, and he gave a frustrating performance. The Spurs big man seemed to shrink as the Warriors continued their run to start the final period, but he steadied for his squad late with big shots and clutch rebounds.

Yet the final minute came down to a score by Ginobili with 34 seconds left to cut Godlen State’s lead to 111-108. Patty Mills then came up with a steal on Klay Thompson, who then fouled Mills. After the free throws and another made basket by Stephen Curry, Mills needed to hit one free throw and miss another with 0.5 seconds left to get a chance at a tip to win.

The Spurs never got their chance, and Golden State took Game 1.

Aldridge finished with 28 points, adding eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals to lead the Spurs. Leonard was close behind with 26 points and eight rebounds. Manu Ginobili had 17 points off the bench while Jonathon Simmons added 12.

For Golden State it was all Curry, particularly after Leonard left the game. The star guard had 40 points, including 7-of-16 from 3-point range, to go with seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Durant added 34 points alongside five rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Pachulia was the only other Warriors to score in double-digits with 11 points.

Game 2 is in Oakland on Tuesday.

Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett out at least a week with right ankle sprain

R.J. Barrett
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NEW YORK (AP) New York Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett will miss at least a week with a sprained right ankle.

Barrett was hurt during the Knicks’ loss to Phoenix on Thursday. On Friday, he had X-rays, which were negative.

The Knicks announced afterward that Barrett will be re-evaluated in a week.

The No. 3 pick in the draft from Duke is averaging 14.1 points.

Heat: Justise Winslow out at least two more weeks

Justise Winslow
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MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat say Justise Winslow will miss at least two more weeks while recovering from a back injury.

Winslow has played only once since Dec. 4 and is slated to be out for at least the remainder of January. The team originally called Winslow’s injury a back strain, then updated the diagnosis to a bone bruise.

Winslow played off the bench in Miami’s win at Indiana on Jan. 8. The team said the back problems reappeared after that game. He has not played since.

Friday’s game in Oklahoma City is Miami’s 41st of the season and the 30th that Winslow has missed. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Heat this season.

Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer gives Hawks first win in San Antonio in his lifetime (video)

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The Hawks beat the Spurs in San Antonio on Feb. 15, 1997.

The next year, Kevin Huerter was born.

Atlanta’s next win in San Antonio came Friday, when Huerter hit the game-winning 3-pointer in a 121-120 win.

The Hawks’ losing streak in San Antonio spanned Tim Duncan’s entire lengthy career – and continued a few seasons beyond that. The only reprieve came during the lockout-shortened 1999 season, when Atlanta didn’t visit San Antonio. So, the skid lasted 21 games.

Buddy Hield on Kings getting booed at home: ‘That’s how Sacramento fans are’

Kings guard Buddy Hield
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Buddy Hield is quite familiar with frustration amid the Kings’ disappointing season.

Sacramento fans showed theirs Wednesday, booing the Kings during their home loss to the Mavericks.

Buddy Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed…we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield seemingly isn’t looking to pick a fight with fans. He made a point to empathize with their frustration.

But I don’t think he’s being fair, either.

Kings fans are far more loyal than swinging between love and hate depending whether or not a shot falls. They’re fed up after 13 – going on 14 – straight seasons missing the playoffs. This year has been particularly discouraging, as Sacramento has backtracked from fun and fast to sad and slow. Losing to Luka Doncica particular grievance – only adds to the irritation.

The Kings’ problems have spanned multiple owners, executives, coaches and players. So, booing this group isn’t totally fair, either. But this is who’s in front of the fans.

If this Sacramento team plays hard and together, fans will embrace it – and stick with it through thinner times.