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Spurs open post Duncan era with blowout of Warriors

So, who saw this coming?

The Golden State Warriors, fresh off a 73 win season and debuting what was being called a super team, began their quest to return to the NBA Finals at home against a San Antonio Spurs team that, while good; lost hall of famer Tim Duncan to retirement. Experts said no chance.

That’s why they play the games.

Kawhi Leonard scored a career best 35 points, and Jonathan Simmons added a career best 20 to lift the Spurs to a shocking 129-100 win over the Warriors in Oracle Arena on Tuesday night in the first game in the post Tim Duncan era. It was a dominant performance that no one saw coming. “If there was an outcome I wasn’t expecting, it was this one,” Manu Ginobili said. “A 29-point lead against a team like them? I truly didn’t expect it.” Truthfully, few even saw this game as competitive. After all, the Warriors beat the Spurs 120-90 in their first matchup of last season in the same arena. But the Spurs sent a message to everyone around the NBA: this isn’t last season.

For the first time since April 20th, 1997, the Spurs took to the floor without Tim Duncan. A five time NBA champion and future hall of fammer, Duncan decided to retire after the Spurs historic 67 win season last year, leaving the franchise to Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge. Their first game post Duncan? On the road against the Golden State Warriors, coming off a historic season themselves. Golden State won an NBA record 73 games last season and cruised to the NBA Finals. But they fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers after becoming the first team to blow a 3-1 series lead in the Finals. How did they respond? By signing superstar Kevin Durant, forming what everyone was calling a super team alongside MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

San Antonio didn’t seem fazed at all by the new look Warriors and their raucous crowd, finishing the first quarter on a 19-4 run and taking a 31-20 lead. A big part of that run was Jonathan Simmons. The second year man out of Houston, Simmons jump started the Spurs in the first half by scoring 15 points, including a three pointer to beat both first half buzzers. Golden State tried to answer, making a late first half run led by Curry, who finished with 26 points. He and Durant, who finished his Warrior debut with 27, brought Golden State within eight before the Spurs ended the first half on a 12-2 run, and took a 64-46 lead after Simmons hit a three at the buzzer.

Not surprisingly, the Warriors fought back to start the third quarter, scoring the first six of the half to pull within 12. Golden State was still in it down 80-64 midway through the quarter when Stephen Curry broke away for what appeared to be a layup. But he was met at the rim and blocked by Jonathan Simmons, sending flashbacks of the infamous block by LeBron James agains the Warriors in game 7 last year throughout the arena. From that very moment, all momentum was lost. San Antonio then closed out the quarter thanks to Aldridge, who scored 13 of his 26 points in the third quarter alone, and Leonard put his stamp on the game by stealing the ball from Curry late in the quarter and slamming it down over Kevin Durant. By quarters end, the Spurs were up 20 and they never let up, continuing to attack Golden State on offense as the lead ballooned to 27 after a Kyle Anderson three pointer, leading to something rarely seen in Oracle Arena: Warriors fans leaving early. It was not the start the Warriors were anticipating, especially after starting last season 24-0 on their way to a record 73 wins. “No, I didn’t see losing by 29 points,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s going to be an ugly tape to watch. … I think our guys were embarrassed tonight. I know I was.”

Notes: This is the Spurs first win in Oakland since a 113-100 victory on Veterans Day 2014. Golden State has lost only 5 home games in the Steve Kerr era, and two of them have been against the Spurs.

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