The San Antonio Spurs went into Oakland and a raucous Oracle Arena Friday night and, for a night, snuffed out the explosion of Playoff Stephen Curry. Tony Parker played like the sleeper MVP candidate he has been for a few years now, Klay Thompson couldn't get going and Tim Duncan shouldered more of the scoring load, and the Spurs came away with a 102-92 win.
Parker was the driving force in the win, especially in the first half, setting the tone and doing his best to quiet the crowd. Parker dropped 25 points in the first half and missed only three shots while doing it. Whereas Klay Thompson had used his length to slow Parker and relegate him to catch-and-shoots in the first two games, Parker looked to have a little more pep in his step, using his superior quickness to create space and even dropping in a pair of three-pointers.
Where Parker left off in the first half, Duncan picked up in the second. He took advantage when matched up with Draymond Green, hitting fadeaway after fadeaway out of isolation post-ups. The Big Fundamental finished with a double-double and had three assists and two blocks to go along with it.
Curry and Thompson, each having been the catalyst for mammoth performances in San Antonio, combined to shoot 12-of-37 and score 33 points. The sharpshooters did each hit three shots from beyond the arc, but Curry, a 45-percent three-point shooter, went just 3-9 from range. And that was before he rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, causing him to limp noticeably the rest of the game. Curry is a game-time decision for Game 4 Sunday afternoon, head coach Mark Jackson said.
The Warriors got a brief lift when David Lee played his first minutes of the series, but it was very brief — the big man was on the court just three minutes, even though he scored five points with two rebounds — and the Warriors got nothing offensively from Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. They'll need to do something, anything, on offense if Duncan has more games like Friday night's.
This series resembles Senators-Canadiens more than it does Spurs-Warriors at this point. The Bulls and Heat haven't liked each other for about three years, and it nearly boiled over in Game 2 with technicals aplenty. It finally reached somewhat of a tipping point in the second quarter of Game 3 when Nazr Mohammed shoved LeBron James to the floor after he inexplicably committed a hard foul on James in the backcourt and James shucked him off his shoulders like he was Nate Robinson.
Mohammed was ejected and tensions simmered for the rest of the game, a high-energy, back and forth affair. The difference was, ultimately, LeBron James' command on the offensive side of the ball. He hit a 27-foot three-pointer with just more than two minutes left in the game, then had a hockey assist out of a double-team to Norris Cole less than a minute later for a backbreaking three, and the game was never in doubt after that.
James finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one turnover. He went 11-11 from the free throw line but an uncharacteristic 6-17 from the floor. Chris Bosh was there to pick up the slack, however, checking in with a massive 20-point, 19-rebound game, with two blocks and four assists.
The Bulls were again without Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, but we've learned by now that who wasn't on the court didn't matter to the players on it. Joakim Noah was instigating chippiness pretty much every second of the night, and played his rear end off, too. He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and no turnovers before fouling out. Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 21 points in 28 minutes, the only starter who played under 42 minutes; Jimmy Butler again played all 48.
Taj Gibson played 22 minutes, spelling Boozer and Noah, Marquis Teague played 10:51 and Mohammed got on for all of 2:31 before he hit the showers. Daequan Cook played more than 22 minutes in the Bulls' Game 2 loss, but he didn't set foot on the court Friday night. No one wants Hinrich and Deng back more than Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler, if only so their lungs don't pop by Game 5.