Leonard, Spurs spoil Kevin Durant’s debut with Warriors
By Michael Rehome
Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs put on such a basketball show they sent the loyal Golden State fans to a rare early exit.
It was opening night for the NBA and it proved to be a one of the best games in history. It was time for both teams to show their prized possessions during free agency.
San Antonio’s Pau Gasol and Golden State’s Kevin Durant took center-stage and though Gasol did not have the best of debut’s for his new team, Durant despite the loss, showed the Warriors what to expect from him this season.
As the game went back and forth with high-intensity it would be the Spurs that would slap the Warriors in the mouth maybe leaving Durant questioning his decision to pass them to join Golden State.
This year will be important for not only the Spurs but for Leonard to etch his name into the record-books for San Antonio.
October 25, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots the basketball against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the Spurs emphatically spoiled Durant’s first game for Golden State in a 129-100 rout Tuesday that the Warriors could hardly believe had just happened.
Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game.
Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, while teammate LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds.
As Leonard and Aldridge seemed to pick up right where they left off last season, Jonathon Simmons had himself a night to remember.
Simmons came off the bench to score a career-high 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.
Simmons logged 28 minutes as he was deemed to get more time on the floor with Danny Green on the sideline nursing a quad injury. Kyle Anderson did start for Green but scored just three points in 22 minutes.
The Warriors though had flurries of greatness trying to get back in the game. As quick as the Warriors would respond, San Antonio would quickly have an answer.
At one point in the game, Golden State pulled within 50-42 in the second quarter before the Spurs closed the half on a 14-4 run.
San Antonio exhibited smooth, crisp ball movement and looked polished in a game that had a playoff feel on opening night.
Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard shot 10 for 21 and made all 15 of his free throws.
Spurs Control The Glass
San Antonio controlled the glass against Golden State as they were +20 in the category. The Spurs held the Warriors to 35 rebounds while they themselves grabbed 55 (21 offensive). Aldridge accounted for 14.
Bench Provides Spark
The Spurs may have started Anderson, but it was Simmons who provided the early spark off the bench. He checked in the game at the 4:20 mark in the first quarter and quickly scored four points to tie the game at 16 points. The Spurs would go on a 19-4 run to end the first quarter with Simmons on the floor.
He entered half time with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Simmons would help the second unit outscore the Warriors’ bench 54-16.
Pau Gasol Not-So-Debut
We all knew he would be a defensive liability, Gasol recorded 18 minutes, finishing with two points and four rebounds. At points in the game, Gasol seemed to be lost. I know it is his first game with his new team and it will take time for him to settle in. Hopefully he will find a rhythm sooner rather than later in the season.
Dewayne Dedmon Was Solid
Dedmon played 16 minutes for San Antonio and provided what Gasol could not bring, defense. It was Dedmon’s defense, especially on the perimeter, that helped the Spurs. Spurs did not bring Dedmon on for scoring but his ability to be physical on the defensive end. He also grabbed eight rebounds in the contest.
What’s Next For San Antonio
With momentum on their side after the 29-point win against the Warriors, the Spurs stay in California and travel to Sacramento on Wednesday to play the Kings Thursday night.
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