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.