Moral victories don’t carry much weight in the locker room of a team harboring championship ambitions. So there were no smiles in the locker room after But Golden State’s 76-74 to the Spurs. But from a macro perspective, Friday’s performance tempered the frustration.
With point guard Stephen Curry on the sidelines, a late scratch thanks to a bone bruise in his left ankle, Golden State could’ve beaten Western Conference power San Antonio. Perhaps should’ve beaten.
“We have to look at the positives, especially when we have a tough loss like this,” swingman Andre Iguodala said. “I think it was glaring, some of the things that kept us from getting the win. … Hopefully we grow from it. I’m sure we will.”
Iguodala’s game-tying floater taunting Warriors fans as it danced on the rim before falling off. It was a fitting end.
In the battle for the best record in the Western Conference, the Warriors (4-2) hung close Friday with gritty defense, the kind of resilience you want from a team claiming to be a contender. And a season-high 21 points from back-up guard Toney Douglas provide absolutely vital.
But the road team didn’t have enough firepower to upset the Spurs (5-1), who have now beaten Golden State in 30 straight regular-season games in San Antonio.
The Warriors held the Spurs to 39.2 percent shooting and just 12 fourth-quarter points. Superior defense. But when they needed offense, they couldn’t get it.
Two more timely baskets, and the Warriors walk out of the Alamo with a win. But they went without a field goal over the last 3:56 of the game. Golden State’s last points came from a pair of Lee free throws at the 2:23 mark.
The last time the Warriors lost a game after holding a team to 76 or fewer points was January 3, 1955, when the franchise was in Philadelphia and lost to the Minneapolis Lakers.
“Defensively, I think we were outstanding, especially in the second half,” center Andrew Bogut said. “If we can grind our defense like that, put pressure on them, our chances our very good. We have a lot of work to do, but positive signs.”
The Warriors suffered their first loss on the four-game road trip. They have a chance to finish 3-1 on Saturday at Memphis. Curry will be a game-time decision for that game.
The Warriors came into the game the highest scoring team in the league at 110.8 points per game, with Curry. They were shooting 50.2 percent from the field and averaging 27.8 assists per game, both were second only to Miami.
But at the half Friday against the Spurs, without Curry, the Warriors had just 33 points on 37.5 percent shooting.
Thompson and Lee combined for 24 points on 10 of 29 shooting. The only one who had a rhythm going was Douglas. He scored five quick points early in he third, including a 3-pointer that cut the Spurs lead to 44-40.
His 3-pointer at the 7:37 mark cut the Spurs lead to 50-45. He hit another to make it 55-50.
Then at the 9:12 mark of the fourth quarter, he dropped in his fifth 3-pointer to pull the Warriors to within four, 66-62.
Thompson finally knocked down an open look, turning a no-look pass from Bogut into a 3-pointer from the right corner. After a stop, Lee converted a driving layup. The Warriors trailed 73-71.
Spurs guard Tony Parker’s jumper pushed Golden State’s deficit to four with just over three minutes left. That was the last field goal of the game as the defenses stiffened.
The Warriors found themselves with ball down 76-74 with 1:42 left. The win was theirs for the taking. They just couldn’t score.
Thompson missed a 3-pointer over Spurs center Tiago Splitter. Bogut missed a floater. After Parker missed two free throws, Golden State had one last chance with seven seconds left. Iguodala said he waited to late too long, but the Warriors liked the look he got.
More than that, they liked the resolve they displayed to set up the chance.
“We’re going to face some adversity,” Douglas said. “It shows the type of team we have and how much depth we have. The sky is the limit. We didn’t even play our best ball.”