OAKLAND, Calif. — The San Antonio Spurs prepared to rebound from a horrendous Game 1 showing at the Golden State Warriors by simplifying defensive concepts, cranking up their physicality and aggression and improving their shooting.
The Spurs accomplished all but the most fundamental of those lofty goals, as poor shooting once again doomed the club in a 116-101 loss to the Warriors that dropped them to 0-2 in this best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.
“I was pleased with them tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his players. “They executed the game plan wonderfully. Their physicality was great. We were aggressive, played very well. But the ball has to go in the basket. That’s the difference in the ballgame. They shot [48.4] percent from 3. I don’t know what we shot — 14 percent, 4-for-28. That’s tough to overcome.”
San Antonio’s 14.3 percent accuracy from 3-point range in Game 2 registered as its second-worst percentage from long distance in a postseason game (minimum 20 attempts) since 1997-98, Popovich’s first full season as head coach, according to research from ESPN Stats and Information research.
The Spurs even clanked shots off the rim on open looks, hitting 5-of-16 in such situations. On uncontested 3-point attempts, San Antonio finished 0-for-7; it is 4-for-18 on such shots so far in this series.
The shoddy perimeter shooting muddied a 34-point night from LaMarcus Aldridge, who racked up 17 points in the first half alone. Going into the matchup Monday, the Spurs owned a record of 10-1 in games in which Aldridge scored 17 points or more in the opening half.
With Aldridge on fire, he constantly drew double-teams that forced him to kick the ball outside to open teammates. They simply failed to make the shots.
“I trust my teammates, and I’ll always tell them to keep shooting it,” Aldridge said. “We’re not going to roll over. We’ve got to take the mentality that we had tonight of trying to take the fight to them. You know, go home with that same mentality, and hopefully we’ll shoot the ball better from the 3, and guys will be feeling better. We’ve got to take the same intensity from tonight home with us.”
In the span of 6 minutes, 26 seconds in the second quarter, the Spurs failed to score a single field goal, yet they led 53-47 at the half. But a 17-5 Warriors run to start the third quarter jump-started the home crowd, and San Antonio didn’t possess the firepower to keep pace in the second half.
It didn’t help that the Warriors also outscored the Spurs 21-3 in transition in the second half after scoring just seven points in the first half in transition.
“Well, actually I feel better about this loss than the previous one,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said. “I think we competed way harder. We executed much better. There’s always something. Today, we had an off night shooting. We did a lot of great things, but bottom line, we shot 4-for-28 [from 3-point range]. It’s hard.”
Ginobili said the Spurs need to make the physical edge and aggressiveness they played with in Game 2 their baseline to “even have a minor chance” at rebounding from their two-game deficit.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep that and stick together,” Popovich said. “But you’ve got to make shots. And it’s been like that the entire year on the road for us for whatever reason, and it really showed up tonight. That made it very difficult.”
Game 3 is set for Thursday in San Antonio.