His team acquitted themselves well for most of three quarters on Saturday, but it may take that kind of star power to beat these Golden State Warriors with Leonard remaining out owing to a sprained left ankle.
Durant had 33 points in all, 19 of them in the third period, and pulled down 10 rebounds. Steps Curry was not too far behind as he clinched 21 points alongside six steals.
SAN ANTONIO Wounded and wobbly, the Spurs, trailing 2-0 in the series and clawing from behind in the third quarter, needed one more forceful shove to push their fading season onto life support. Because of his outburst in the first game, he's maintained a scoring average of 18 points a night, but all of his issues can be chalked up to the Warriors' overpowering defense. But the real magic in the Warriors' rehabilitation of McGee is that they didn't strip away the essence of his game - his energy - but found a way to harness it.
The Warriors were ultimately able to put up enough points of their own to nullify San Antonio's offense.
However, the Spurs, with Australian Patty Mills installed as the lead point guard, made the visitors fight for every point and had a four-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
Stephen Curry added 21 points and became the franchise leader in postseason points, passing Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
About the only chance the Spurs would seem to have to extend the series past Monday to a Game 5 in Oakland on Wednesday would stem on some level of complacency by Golden State.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting after stressing it was imperative for him to score following Leonard's injury.
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"Circumstances were such that we could be in a totally different position now", said Popovich, the Spurs coach whose teams have been swept only twice in 52 previous series on his watch.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr's health has improved enough that he traveled to Texas with the team, an encouraging sign after he returned to practice for the first time in more than three weeks last Saturday following a May 5 procedure to fix a spinal fluid leak.
Golden State's high scorer was Kevin Durant, who finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Even as his shot has gone cold, Thompson has continued to apply the defensive pressure that has brought him praise as one of the league's top two-way players.
"As players, you want to go out there and win as much as possible and play as great as you can", Durant said when asked about the Warriors' domination. He shot 53 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.
"I don't know what the secret [to try-scoring] is", Aso said.
Already working with a razor-thin margin, the Spurs have been crushed by injuries and now it behooves the Warriors to finish the series in four.
"I don't think it's serious", Popovich said of Lee's injury.
"I'm not surprised that we are up 3-0 - our goal is to win every game we play", Curry said. Also, David West hit just his fourth three-pointer of the entire season just before the first half ended. Curry then played almost 7 foul-free minutes, despite being targeted several times in isolation by the Spurs' offense.
Prior to the game, Durant predicted that Leonard would take the court due to the importance of the game.