Golden State blown out by San Antonio in opener
JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the San Antonio Spurs emphatically spoiled Kevin Durant’s long-awaited Warriors debut Tuesday with a 129-100 rout that sent Golden State fans for the exits early on opening night.
Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for MVP Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game — and quite a different one after the Warriors dominated at home and came out of the blocks last season with a record 24-0 start.
Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds and Gregg Popovich thoroughly outdid a couple of his close friends on the opposite bench in reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr and top assistant Mike Brown.
Yes, San Antonio sent quite a message to the West.
Curry, last season’s first unanimous MVP, scored 26 points but was just 3 for 10 from 3-point range. Draymond Green had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while Klay Thompson was limited to 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The star-studded Warriors were sloppy, committing 16 turnovers. They are clearly still finding themselves just as Kerr expected — though maybe not quite like this while playing at home for the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, where most fans were long gone by the final buzzer.
San Antonio exhibited smooth, crisp ball movement and looked polished in a game that had a playoff feel on Day 1.
Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard shot 10 for 21 and made all 15 of his free throws.
Jonathon Simmons came off the bench to score 20 points, including a 3 to beat the halftime buzzer for a 64-46 advantage. His status had been in doubt for the opener because of a calf injury.
Green dunked off a pass from Curry early in the third to get Golden State within 10, only to pound his chest and yell before being hit with a technical.
The Warriors had flurries of greatness trying to get back in it. San Antonio answered each time — like when Golden State pulled within 50-42 in the second quarter before the Spurs closed the half on a 14-4 run.
The Warriors trailed by 18 in the second quarter, were outrebounded 30-17 in the first half and shot 4 for 19 from 3-point range in the first two quarters.
Durant made a 14-footer 65 seconds into the game and hit his first four shots. After one impressive sequence, he raised his right hand in the air then smacked himself on the backside after making a 3-pointer just 25 seconds after his fadeaway jumper midway through the first.
But he didn’t have much help early.
San Antonio led 31-20 after the first, when the Warriors shot 7 for 20 with four baskets by Durant. Golden State’s other players were 3 for 15, and the Warriors got outrebounded 17-9.
Durant’s former Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
These rivals faced off in the season opener for the fourth time and first since 2002.
Spurs: Pau Gasol had two points in 19 minutes of his debut for San Antonio. … The Spurs won at Oracle Arena for the first time since a 113-110 victory on Nov. 11, 2014. … Leonard’s previous career high was 33 on April 2 at Toronto.
Warriors: Durant has scored 20 or more points in 65 straight games. … C Zaza Pachulia scored two points in his Warriors debut. … Golden State’s three-game home winning streak against the Spurs was snapped along with its run of four straight victories in season openers.
You bet it was strange for Popovich to play the first real game without Duncan. It’s the first time since Popovich’s initial season as head coach of the Spurs in 1996-97 to be exact.
“He was like a security blanket for everybody. Even if things went awry,” Popovich said. “He was like the center of the universe and everybody knew how to act around that. With that pivotal guy gone, we’ll have to wait and see who accepts that role.”
A special giveaway T-shirt with Craig Sager’s likeness hung on every seat for the sellout crowd to honor the eccentric, beloved TNT sideline reporter as he fights leukemia. Warriors coach Steve Kerr wore a different colorful version earlier, then a wild tie for the game.
Curry took the microphone before tipoff to offer “a special shoutout to Craig Sager. Hope you’re doing well. We’re thinking about you.”
Popovich offered a caring thought, too.
“He’s just an iconic and weird and wonderful guy all at the same time, and I mean that lovingly,” he said.
Warriors Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond died in July from leukemia.
“We are trying to do our part to help,” Kerr said.
Spurs: They visit Sacramento on Thursday as the Kings open their new arena, Golden 1 Center.
Warriors: Golden State plays at New Orleans on Friday to begin a stretch of three straight on the road and four of five away from Oracle.