SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gary Payton II delivered a defensive gem with his high jump shot against 7-foot-3 Victor Wimpanyama as the Golden State guard returned from a foot injury.
The Warriors needed every big game, and only a few other teams have been able to get past Wembanyama so far.
“I’m probably the youngest,” Payton said with a laugh. “It’s just energy and effort.”
Stephen Curry scored 35 points and matched a season-high with seven 3-pointers while dishing out six assists, as the Warriors beat Wimpanyama and the slumping San Antonio Spurs 118-112 on Friday night in a championship game.
Cedi Osman scored three goals with 21 seconds left in the game, giving the Spurs a 112-109 lead, before Curry converted four free throws the rest of the way and Klay Thompson made a brace.
After the game, Curry hosted Davidson at the Warriors’ practice facility after his college program’s loss earlier in the day at St. Mary’s.
Dario Saric added 20 points, four 3-pointers and seven rebounds off the bench, while Thompson contributed 15 points and six assists. Golden State won for only the second time in nine games and still hopes to emerge from the tournament’s third group during the season.
The Warriors even discussed the point differential during one late timeout — but that conversation didn’t quite pan out, as a 15-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes left turned into a close finish.
“We’re trying to progress,” coach Steve Kerr said.
No. 1 Wembanyama had 22 points and eight rebounds but shot 1-for-6 from long range in San Antonio’s 11th straight loss. He had five quick points on a 3-pointer as the Spurs took an 11-4 lead. The rookie drove to the basket with a beautiful move around the waist, only to have his shot blocked by Payton — more than a full foot shorter and who had missed the previous three games — midway through the second quarter.
“It was an exciting moment, the crowd loved it,” Kerr said. “It was a hell of a play.”
Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 24 points, while Keldon Johnson scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for San Antonio, which finished with a 0-4 draw in the group stage of the tournament.
The Warriors have won their last five games against the Spurs and seven of nine in the series, but have given up 34 points off 24 turnovers.
Draymond Green served the final game of his five-game suspension by choking Rudy Gobert and was working out with the coaching staff ahead of his return Tuesday in Sacramento, which would have secured a spot in the quarterfinals with a loss to the Warriors on Friday.
“I hope he’s ready to play a lot of minutes,” Kerr said.
Golden State unveiled the new Jim Barnett Media Center to honor the team’s former player and broadcaster.
“I’m so glad I’m alive to see all of this,” Barnett said.
Spurs: Visit Denver on Sunday.
Warriors: Visit the Kings on Tuesday for their final Group C game.