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OAKLAND — The Warriors rediscovered defense during their 122-105 win against the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs Saturday night.

Of course, the Warriors’ offense was good, too. They made 56.5 percent of their shots. Shooting guard Klay Thompson made 71.4 percent of his shots and scored a game-high 25 points. And backup center David West made 100 percent of his shots and scored 13 points off the bench.

But offense isn’t the Warriors’ issue. They can score. Everyone knows that.

Defense is their issue. If they have one.

The Warriors’ record is 43-13 — best in the NBA. But their defense, which used to be excellent, has been among the league’s worst since Jan. 1. Their 108.6 defensive rating in 2018 ranks 23rd out of 30 NBA teams.

“We sometimes take for granted the type of talent we have,” West said, “and think we can go out there and get it done. But we know we have to bring that consistent effort, play with a certain level of force.”

And they did.

After the first quarter Saturday night, the Warriors played elite defense. They allowed the Spurs to score only 68 points and shoot just 40 percent from the field.

But, the Spurs were missing four key players — two-time All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard, backup power forward Rudy Gay, backup point guard Tony Parker and starting point guard Dejounte Murray. They’re injured.

Before the game, a reporter asked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich who would start at point guard in place of Murray against the Warriors.

“Patty Mills and Derrick White,” Popovich said with a straight face. “We get an extra guy against (the Warriors), so they both get to start at the point. It’s going to be six against five.”

The Spurs in fact did not get an extra guy — playing with six people is against the rules. Mills started at point guard and finished with seven points and one assist.

The Warriors were missing none of their starters or key bench players.

Still, the Warriors had lost three of their previous five games coming into Saturday night. Their players said they were tired heading into the All-Star break. So Kerr gave them Saturday morning off. They usually shoot around the morning before a game.

“Our guys have been doing this for a long time together,” Kerr said. “Some days, you don’t need to shoot. It’s probably good for us not to on certain days. This is not a concern at all.”

But shooting was a concern early. The Warriors scored zero points during the first 2:33 of the game and fell behind 8-0.

Shooting was a non-issue for the Spurs in the first quarter. They made 15 of 24 shots (62.5 percent) and scored 37 points. The Warriors trailed by 10 after the first quarter.

Then, they quickly cut their deficit to two points with a nine-to-one run to start the second quarter. Shaun Livingston found Andre Iguodala for a wide-open dunk, then made two free throws. Iguodala found Draymond Green for a wide-open layup. And Thompson made a 26-foot catch-and-shoot 3-pointer.

With 4:44 left in the second quarter, the Warriors took their first lead of the game — a 46-44 lead. Stephen Curry received a pass from Kevin Durant and made a driving, uncontested layup. The Warriors would never trail again.

They played brilliant defense throughout the second quarter. The Spurs made just eight shots on 20 attempts (40 percent), and scored only 19 points.

“That was the story of the game,” Kerr said, “our bench play, and the way those guys straightened everything out for us. We gave up 37 points in the first quarter. Defense wasn’t there. We were getting carved up.

“As usual, that (second) group came in and just settled us down. Got a lot of good contributions. Andre and Shaun were both great. And Klay was really good with that group as well.”

Green also played with the second unit, and finished with 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds — two shy of a triple double.

At halftime, the Warriors led 58-55. Curry had 15 points –—more than any other player. He would finish with just 17.

The Warriors didn’t need a big scoring night from Curry. Or from Durant (he finished with 10 points). The Warriors won with defense. During the third quarter, they held the Spurs to just nine field goals on 29 shots (31 percent).

On offense, backup center JaVale McGee scored seven points in the third, starting center Zaza Pachulia and Thompson each scored 10 in that quarter and Thompson stuffed a dunk on center Davis Bertans’ head.

“I caught the ball,” Thompson said, “and I had a good pace. So, I just went up and flushed it. And it felt very good.”

“I didn’t think he was going to take off,” West said. “He just took off.”

The Warriors outscored the Spurs by 13 points in the third quarter. Coming into the game, the Warriors had outscored opponents by an average margin of 4.9 points per game in the third quarter — best in the NBA.

At the end of the third quarter Saturday, the Warriors led 91-75. They would take a 21-point lead during the fourth quarter before Kerr benched his starters.

“I like the upward trend,” he said. “I think our defense is getting better. We seem to be finding some better energy. It would be great to close the schedule before the break with a couple good efforts defensively. That’s the main thing we’re looking for.”



Late in the first quarter, Curry tweaked his right ankle — the same one he injured earlier this season. That injury cause him to miss 11 games. Curry returned to this game and played through the pain. Afterward, he said his ankle is fine.

Kerr won his 250th game as a head coach. He is the fastest NBA coach to reach that win total — he reached it in only 302 games.

But he didn’t actually win all 250 himself. Former Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton won 39 games as the interim head coach while Kerr was rehabbing from back surgery.

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