Popovich one win from 700 after Spurs win at Golden State

By Mike Tulumello, for NBA.com
Spurs @ Warriors
December 16, 2009
Oracle Arena // Golden State
San Antonio Spurs (13-10)
Golden State Warriors (7-18)

T. Duncan
Points: 27
Rebs: 15
Blks: 4
R. Jefferson
Points: 17
Rebs: 5
Asts: 2

OAKLAND -- All it took for the San Antonio Spurs to record their first win in four tries this season on the second half of a back-to-back was the liberal application of one of Tim Duncan's favorite opponents.

On a per-minute basis, the Spurs' 11-time All-Star has scored more often against the Golden State Warriors than all but one other team in the NBA.

Duncan increased that rate Wednesday with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four assists in San Antonio's 103-91 victory, a win that helped rinse a bit of the bad taste left behind by a 12-point loss in Phoenix the previous evening.

A very little bit, in the mind of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

"We should be able to do that," Popovich said. "We haven't done it well this season... . Winning on a back-to-back is better than losing, but we didn't make any kind of great statement tonight. We have a long way to go."

The Spurs got there Wednesday with some help from newcomer Richard Jefferson. After Popovich made a point in his pre-game media session to touch on how out-of-sync this year's model is, even by San Antonio's historically slow-starting standards, Jefferson gave an object lesson on the court in the first half, scoring just three points and looking very much out of sorts.

After halftime, the Jefferson of old re-emerged. He threw down reverse dunks from either baseline en route to 14 second-half points, including five during a 20-6, mid-third-quarter run that put the Spurs up 74-61.

It was the fourth time in his last five games that Jefferson has scored at least 17 points.

"I'm still learning the system, offensively and defensively," Jefferson said. "I've gotten more comfortable the last few games, but I expect a lot out of myself, and I know (about) buying into the system. If you're worried about points, then you're going to get frustrated."

Said Popovich: "He really didn't worry or think too much in the second half. He just played basketball, and the more he does that, the more he's going to feel comfortable."

Monta Ellis finished with a game-high 35 points, six rebounds and five assists, but couldn't keep the Warriors from suffering their eighth loss in nine games.

"I thought Keith Bogans had a great all-around game. He played his (butt) off against Ellis," Popovich said. "We thought (Ellis) had to work hard for what he got."

Outside of Ellis (16-for-31) and Corey Maggette (8-for-10, 21 points), the Warriors shot a sorrowful 28.3 percent. Vladimir Radmanovic went 0-for-8, Anthony Randolph was 3-for-10 and Stephen Curry charted a 4-for-11 night.

But Duncan was still thinking of Tuesday's loss to the Suns.

"We're trying to turn the corner," Duncan said. "But we've got to start beating some of the more elite teams before we say we have turned it."

Before that, though, San Antonio will have a milestone to celebrate: Wednesday's result moved Popovich to 699 lifetime wins.

"It's just persistence," Duncan said. "You do something for such a long time, people get tired of things. It gets monotonous and people get tired of pushing what they believe and want from their players. He stays that course. He always does."

The win spoiled the return of Golden State coach Don Nelson, who had missed 10 of the Warriors' previous 12 games, including the last five in a row, due to pneumonia.

Nelson reported that he was "100 percent" healthy, although he certainly was left ill-tempered by his team's performance. The 69-year-old used multiple timeouts to light into various players, including repeated runs at guard Anthony Morrow, whose struggles continued with four points in 32 minutes.

"I've been gone for some time," Nelson said. "I think my play calling is a bit different. I expect them to know the play calls and be where they're supposed to be, and that didn't happen sometimes. That upsets me, when there are missed assignments. I don't think we were mentally sharp at times and when guys let their armor down, I got on them."

The outcome will likely do little to tamp down speculation about the future of second-year Warriors forward Anthony Randolph. Multiple reports said the Warriors were shopping Randolph around the league, just a few short weeks after telling would-be suitors that he was untouchable.

"You can go bonkers with all that's been going on, but everybody is helping each other out," Maggette said.