Stephen Curry's ankle rolled and the San Antonio Spurs walked away with an enormous win over the Golden State Warriors on the road Friday night, giving them the 2-1 series edge.
It was a combination of Tony Parker coming out of his shell and dominating for the first time in this series, Tiago Splitter's return to the starting lineup and San Antonio's ability to contest three-pointers while simultaneously keeping a firm hold on the paint.
Basically, the Spurs took a look at everything they did poorly in the first two games and instead decided to do those things well.
Game 4 will be the best possible opportunity for the Warriors to hang in the series, as a loss would put them into a two-game hole with a trip back to San Antonio on the docket.
It's not necessarily a must-win scenario, but losing would surely leave them in dire straits.
Time: Sunday, May 12, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
Series Record: San Antonio 2, Golden State 1
Key Storyline: Stephen Curry's Ankle
The presses stopped, everyone in the Bay Area took a deep breath and NBA fans everywhere were whispering to themselves, "Please, not again."
Stephen Curry rolled his ankle late in Game 3 with the Warriors trailing by nine points and just five minutes left in the game.
Curry was noticeably limping following the roll, doing whatever possible to get rid of the ball and get away from the play.
It was just a slight turn of his left ankle, and he was able to stay in the game until the Spurs had it well in hand, but there's still no telling how badly he was hurt.
Curry didn't speak to the media following the loss, and the latest news following his injury was that he would be a game-time decision for Game 4.
Curry isn't talking to media. Getting treatment. Not sure that's a good sign for status of his ankle.— Jimmy Spencer (@JimmySpencerNBA) May 11, 2013
Curry X-Rays negative. No MRI scheduled. Game-time decision officially. Early start makes it dicey— Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) May 11, 2013
If it weren't for Curry's ankle taking over headlines following the game, we would definitely be talking about the Spurs finally stifling Golden State's three-point attack thanks to some stellar defensive efforts from Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
Golden State was only able to make six of their 19 attempts from range, Curry hitting three of his nine.
Obviously a lot of Golden State's success depends on Curry not only playing, but hitting three-pointers, so the injury is one to keep an eye on with relation to how well the Warriors could play in Game 4.
Injury Report (Via CBSSports.com)
San Antonio Spurs: No Injuries Reported
Golden State Warriors: Brandon Rush, Out for Season (Knee), Stephen Curry, game-time decision (Ankle)
Projected Starting Lineups
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker (PG), Danny Green (SG), Kawhi Leonard (SF), Tim Duncan (PF), Tiago Splitter (C)
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), Harrison Barnes (SF), Festus Ezeli (PF), Andrew Bogut (C)
The Spurs Will Win If...
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green continue to flock.
One of the best parts of San Antonio's Game 3 win over Golden State was Danny Green giving Stephen Curry a hard time, while Kawhi Leonard oversaw Klay Thompson. Curry was 5-of-17 on the night, Thompson just 7-of-20.
Generally speaking, it is Tony Parker who covers Curry, but when the Warriors trot out their small lineup featuring a teeny-tiny trio of Jarrett Jack, Curry and Thompson, Parker covers Jack and the other two get a bigger defender to shoot over.
While Thompson still made three of his five three-pointers in Game 3, Curry was only able to manage on three of his nine with Green covering him for a good chunk of those misses.
Whether it's that Green's height throws off Curry's shot, or just that Green is able to keep up with Curry both on and off the ball, the evidence so far in this series points to Green being an excellent cover on the young point guard.
Stephen Curry is now 2-for-19 when guarded by Danny Green in this series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 11, 2013
Sure, it's going to help the Spurs a ton if Tony Parker can come out and shoot 56 percent from the floor while scoring over 30 points, but their defense gains most of its strength from limiting the three-point shot.
If those two are able to do two-thirds of the job that they did on Friday, then San Antonio will likely win Game 4.
The Warriors Will Win If...
They get the inside-outside game back on track.
Through the first two games of this series, Curry and Thompson combined to make 16 of their 33 three-pointers, a ridiculous 48.5 percent.
Getting 3-of-6 from Harrison Barnes, 2-of-4 from Draymond Green (no seriously, Draymond Green) and a few more stray long balls from the rest of the team, however, is not icing on the cake—it's a necessity if they don't open up the paint.
San Antonio is going to swarm Curry and Thompson to the point where they have to give the ball up. At times they'll have each other to give it up to, but other times they're going to need some help.
Jarrett Jack can't go around giving them bupkis, and they're going to need somebody to break their way into the paint and put up a shot that actually has a chance of going in.
Just take a look at their shot chart from their Friday night loss. There's the usual green around the perimeter and some solid mid-range shooting, but absolutely nothing in the paint.
Andrew Bogut does a fine job in his 25 minutes or so, but the cutters are failing to finish in the paint and doing just as poorly around the rim.
They need to open the paint back up like they did in Game 1 (when they scored 52 points in the paint), in order to give them an offense that's more than just sinking jumpers with the occasional foray down low.
Of course, they could just go ahead and ask Klay Thompson to hit eight of his nine three-pointers again and they won't have to bother with all of that rough stuff down low.
San Antonio made the right adjustments in Game 3, Gregg Popovich bringing Splitter back into the starting lineup and covering Thompson and Curry with bigger defenders.
The onus is now on Mark Jackson to react to what the Spurs did to slow down their explosive offense.
If he's going to sit back, cross his fingers and hope that Curry and Klay hit a bunch of shots again, then I don't have a ton of faith in Golden State's rebuttal.
However, if he gets creative, possibly trots out his small lineup more often, or even tries to counter by pushing the ball into the post more, Golden State will have a shot.
In the end, I've got to put my faith in the coach who has been in this position roughly 473,934 times before and go with Pop's Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs 104, Golden State Warriors 99
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