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Warriors beat Spurs with epic comeback

The Golden State Warriors are technically up only 1-0 in their best-of-7 Western Conference Final against the San Antonio Spurs, but it might as well be over already.

At ORACLE Arena in Oakland, the Spurs raced out to a 44-19 lead and appeared to well on their way to establishing their place in this series. Instead, it turned into a nightmare for the visitors. San Antonio led by 23 points well into the third quarter, but then disaster struck. Kawhi Leonard aggravated his ankle injury, suffered originally in the semifinals against the Houston Rockets.

Leonard was forced to leave the contest and did not return. Immediately, Golden State went on a 16-0 run to cut the lead to seven points. Ultimately, the Warriors won 113-111, taking the lead for good in the final moments. Stephen Curry was brilliant, scoring a game-high 40 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field. Kevin Durant gave him plenty of assistance with 34 points, while Klay Thompson could only muster six.

Yes, the Warriors still need to win three more games. But with Leonard hurt and the momentum so staunchly in Golden State’s favor, this already feels like a matchup of a great team against a dead team walking.

Leonard, who played in 24 minutes due to injury, had 26 points. If he didn’t get hurt, San Antonio probably rolls to an easy win. Instead, the Spurs set a franchise record for a blown lead in the postseason. While LaMarcus Aldridge was excellent with 28 points and eight rebounds, the rest of the Spurs did little. Pau Gasol was a non-factor, scoring five points in a measly 16 minutes. The combination of Patty Mills and Danny Green? 13 points. Yuck.

If Leonard can’t return to full strength immediately, the Spurs would be lucky to win a single game. After the game, Manu Ginobili talked about the obvious impact Leonard’s loss has on the team.

“It’s a tough break. He’s coming from an injury on that ankle and he tweaked it twice in the last minute he played,” Ginobili said. “So we couldn’t react to his absence.”

Without him, there is a dearth of scoring for a Spurs squad already missing point guard Tony Parker, who is sitting on the bench for the remainder of the campaign due to a torn quad. It seems unfair to a team that won more than 60 games — again — to go out in such a fashion, limping through what appears to be a hammering.

The Warriors have now won nine consecutive games, still avoiding their first postseason loss of the year. Depending on the health of San Antonio’s superstar, they could enter the Finals with a goose egg in the right column.

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