Pivotal timeout vs. Spurs pushes Warriors where they need to be

Pivotal timeout vs. Spurs pushes Warriors where they need to be originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

There were stretches Monday night when the Warriors, outhustled by the lowly Spurs for the second time in three days, looked like a team quitting on its coach. Like the first two minutes of the second half, when San Antonio went on an 8-0 run to take a 10-point lead.

Facing the prospect of a third consecutive loss – second straight to a Spurs squad in the Western Conference cellar – coach Steve Kerr immediately signaled for a timeout. He had words to share.

When play resumed, the Warriors presented a different face, one of defensive engagement and determination. They summoned the intensity required to not only seize a 112-102 victory but also to give themselves a chance to revive their goal of a guaranteed NBA playoff berth.

“They came out and hit us hard in third quarter,” Chris Paul told reporters at Frost Bank Center. “We couldn't really get stops. We were turning the ball over a little bit. And then we called a timeout and we just settled in.

“Then we just started defending and getting out in transition and just trying to get a little bit more aggressive.”

When the Warriors are defending, transition tends to follow. They’re at their best when they’re aggressive at both ends. That has been the formula all season. Once it was applied, the game swung away from the Spurs.

Trailing 68-58 when Kerr called timeout with 10:09 left in the third quarter, Golden State went on an astonishing 28-4 run, taking an 86-72 lead with 3:23 left in the quarter and maintaining control to close out the Spurs.

“The third-quarter defense, after that quick 8-0 start for them, we really turned up our defense,” Kerr said. “I don't know what they shot in the in the second half, but we held them to 42. And the way that team had scored on us the other night and in the first half, that's what it was going to take to win the game.”

That’s what it’s going to take for these Warriors to win most any game.

The Spurs shot 31.8 percent in the second half. They were limited to 16.7-percent shooting and committed five turnovers during the seven minutes when the Warriors flipped the game.

Two days after absorbing their ugliest loss of the season, against the Spurs at Chase Center, the Warriors had a statement to make – not so much to their opponents, but to themselves.

That even though they were without Stephen Curry, they were not ready to give away a second consecutive game to a San Antonio team that was eliminated from the playoffs last week, more than a month before the end of the regular season.

“We didn’t bring it on Saturday,” Brandin Podziemski conceded, referring to the 126-113 loss. “They played really well. They’re a team that tries to create an advantage and swings the ball around and tries to shoot open shots. If you're not locked in and you're not playing with energy and force – they made 51 percent of their threes last game.

“Tonight, holding them to 38 percent was a big key for us. But also, just showing what we’re about and not letting anybody punk us.”

Beating the Spurs doesn’t count for much in Golden State’s the grand scheme, certainly not with the next two games coming against the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas and against the Lakers on Saturday in Los Angeles. Those two games are crucial to the Warriors' hopes of rising from 10th place in the West to at least sixth.

But this was enough to stop a slide that began Thursday with a loss to the Chicago Bulls, another sub-.500 team.

“Yeah, the Chicago game was a tough one,” Paul said. “We felt like that was a winnable game. San Antonio, the other day, they just played harder than us. We didn't really move the ball, didn't execute.”

They were at times following a similar script on Monday, letting the Spurs take an 11-point lead in the first quarter, wiping it out in the second quarter, only to start giving it back early in the third.

Once that was rinsed away, the Warriors played quality basketball.

Perhaps it took visions of being relegated to the NBA play-in tournament because of a series of losses to teams going nowhere to bring clarity and purpose to the Warriors.

Or maybe it was a matter of Kerr calling an emergency timeout that resulted in the kind of attitude adjustment they’re going to need to keep pushing upward over the final 18 games.

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