SAN ANTONIO — Golden State understands it might have disappointed fans in attendance along with those watching the nationally televised game against San Antonio by resting its best players.
But the Warriors want to keep their players healthy — something the Spurs are now hoping for after a tumultuous 48 hours that led to the loss of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Patty Mills had 21 points and San Antonio rolled to a 107-85 victory against Golden State on Saturday night in a game short on star power to pull within a half-game of the Warriors for the NBA’s top record.
“Both sides were missing some players, but at the end of the day it’s an important game either way,” said Pau Gasol, one of five Spurs players in double figures. “We got it done.”
The big showdown between the league’s top two teams turned into a huge letdown with both teams missing their star players.
Already without Kevin Durant due to a knee injury, Golden State opted to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
“It’s more about May and June than March,” said Matt Barnes, who the Warriors signed after Durant’s injury. “I understand the frustration from people, but we’re working for something bigger right now. So, we’ve got to do what’s best for our players. We apologize. You’ll definitely see our stars when it counts.”
Earning the top seed is important, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr said keeping his team healthy is a greater priority. Golden State concluded a stretch of eight games in 13 days, including the second night of a back-to-back that saw the Warriors arrive in San Antonio at 3 a.m. Saturday.
“We had to get through this night. That was the main thing,” Kerr said. “We had to get through this trip and they allowed us to do that. Obviously, we wanted to win, but we didn’t do that, but we made it through to this point. Now we can go home, recharge our batteries and get rolling again.”
The Spurs were expecting to be without Leonard, Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray due to injuries, but received a jolt when they were informed that Aldridge will be out indefinitely with a minor heart arrhythmia. The 31-year-old forward underwent tests Saturday and will have more Monday.
“We hope LaMarcus is well and everything goes well and his arrhythmia goes back to normal and allows him to play with us soon,” Gasol said.
Mills came through with a hot start with San Antonio missing its top two scorers. He matched a career high for points in a half with 21 in the opening quarters. He played only five minutes in the second half.
“The aggressive mindset needs to be there no matter who’s on the court and who’s not,” Mills said. “That’s something that I’ve been trying to focus on a little bit more this end of the season going into the playoffs.”
The Spurs, who led by as many as 28, made 12 3-pointers.
San Antonio hit three consecutive 3-pointers midway through the second quarter, including a pair from rookie forward Davis Bertans. Mills’ 3 led Kerr to call a timeout with 6:18 as the Spurs lead swelled to 53-37.
“I was disappointed in the defense in the first half,” Kerr said.
Ian Clark had 36 points to lead Golden State, which suffered its third consecutive loss and fifth in seven games. Barnes added 14 points and Zaza Pachulia had 11 points and 12 rebounds.