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Warriors take stranglehold on West’s top seed with win in San Antonio

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives around San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

SAN ANTONIO — A 22-point Spurs lead disappeared quickly. The Warriors, in danger of getting run out of the building early, see-saw’d all the way back in front late in the third quarter.

And to punctuate that massive swing — eventually ending in a 110-98 Warrior win — they victimized an old friend: David Lee, a former Warrior All-Star turned Spurs reserve. He went up for a needed late third quarter layup, but was stripped by Andre Iguodala, who pushed it upcourt to Steph Curry for a runout dunk — his second slam of the season — complete with a strut.

And if that wasn’t enough, seconds later, Lee rose for a dunk on the other end and Draymond Green, the Warrior who ripped away Lee’s starting spot three years back and helped jumpstart this franchise renaissance, met his former teammate at the summit, swatted away his dunk and then celebrated in his face.

The Warriors led by seven at the time and controlled the fourth quarter, finishing off a ninth straight win, sweeping a tough Texas back-to-back and taking a stranglehold on the Western Conference. The Warriors are now up 3.5 games on the Spurs for the conference’s top seed with seven games to play, six of those being at Oracle Arena.

Which was quite a change from where it felt like things were heading in the first quarter. The Spurs ripped off the game’s first 15 points and sprinted out to a commanding 29-7 lead. They were threatening to run the Warriors out of the building, sweep the season series between the two and pull within one in the loss column.

The Warriors had a few first half problems. The most massive: Rebounding. San Antonio brutalized them 28-13 on the glass in the first half, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and putting in 16 second chance points. That interior size advantage is quite possibly the biggest concern the Warriors would have against the Spurs in a playoff series. San Antonio mashed them for 21 offensive rebounds in a blowout win in Oracle on opening night.

But the Warriors defense shored up the rebounding issues after the first quarter and continued to play sturdy half-court defense — a theme in this win streak — holding San Antonio to 41 percent shooting.

The turnaround began late in the first quarter, when Andre Iguodala continued his torrid month with a seven-point outburst to bring the Warriors within 17. He hit a fadeaway at the quarter buzzer. Then to start the second, Matt Barnes and Ian Clark nailed a pair of 3s to build the momentum.

Klay Thompson and Steph Curry remained hot from deep — a combined 8-of-17 from 3 — and the Warriors climbed back to within 57-54 at halftime.

Then Golden State took over the third quarter, swarming MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard (7-of-20 shooting, 0-of-5 from 3), holding an aging Tony Parker scoreless in 24 minutes and exposing the defensive problems presented by the Spurs insistence on playing two bigs against Golden State’s smaller lineups.

Golden State continually shredded the slow-footed Pau Gasol and David Lee in space. Lee was a game-worst minus-17 in his 16 minutes.

This offseason, the Spurs signed Gasol and Lee, in part, to replace David West, who departed for the Warriors. The Spurs crowd boo’d West upon entry on Wednesday night. He showed them what they are missing.

West was phenomenal defensively and perhaps had his best game as a Warrior on the offensive end. West finished with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists (continually pinpointing passes to cutters). He was a plus-24 in his 22 minutes, punctuated by a game-sealing corner 3-pointer with 52 seconds left (his third 3 of the season), putting the Warriors up 14.

Moments later, the game ended and the Warriors had completed a dominant Texas trip, which should allow them to have a relaxing runway to the playoffs, comfortably seated in that top seed.

-Kevin Durant got his official four-week re-evaluation on Wednesday morning. The Warriors said his left knee has had no setbacks and he will continue to ramp up activity — “the plan is to intensify his level of movement over the next several days, which will include more explosive cutting and lateral maneuvers” — but Durant will be out at least another week, with another scheduled re-evaluation in 7-10 days.

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