The series has finally begun in which we get to see the Golden State Warriors play their adversary. The San Antonio Spurs have made it to another Conference Championship, and though it seems they have been in it constantly they have lost early in the playoffs the past two years. The Warriors have yet to lose a game in these playoffs. The Spurs have lost 4 in their two series and were not favored to beat Houston. Not sure how exciting of a match up this will be if Kawhi Leonard is not fully healthy so I may shift this article to point out players or particular statistics to look for in the series.
San Antonio Spurs
They defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round in six games then the Houston Rockets in six games. What is always in the background of the NBA playoffs is the loss of players through injury or suspension. They have lost Tony Parker to an ACL injury (out for the playoffs) and most recently Kawhi Leonard had an ankle injury that made him sit out game 6 of the Houston series. Despite those two injuries, Houston still managed to pull off one of the biggest choke jobs and lost in a big way at home to end their season. Leave it to the Spurs to fight through two injuries to starters and come out on top.
Kawhi Leonard will have to be full health to even take Golden State to 6 or 7 games. His defense will be needed to lock up Kevin Durant otherwise the Spurs have some serious match up problems. If you think just because the Spurs shut down Houston that they can handle Golden State, then you have forgotten Kevin Durant. He is 6’11,” can drive with the ball, and has unlimited range. Kawhi Leonard is needed to mollify him.
Defense has been key for them, but they can’t go big with Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge on the court at the same time if the Warriors are shooting well. Both Gasol and Aldridge can’t be constantly moved outside by Draymond Green shooting threes. The one advantage they have is coaching. Popovich is the best and you saw him tear apart Houston in the second round. Unfortunately coaching only goes so far. Look for the game plan to be very physical with Golden State, slowing the game down, and get more free throw attempts.
Golden State Warriors
The reigning two-time conference champions are back in the game and are heavy favorites. They have home court, three of the top 20 shooters in the league, and one of the most efficient defenses and offenses in the league. In the playoffs no team has scored more points per game or a larger point differential. They did play Portland in the first round, swept them, then played the Utah Jazz and swept them.
Golden State needs to just do their pace of play and not get in any significant foul trouble to make sure they win this series. They are also very well rested and completely healthy. It could be interesting if in this series they are challenged late in the game as they don’t have much experience in these playoffs with this exact team to overcome a late deficit. Of course it will be difficult for San Antonio to open a lead at all.
The clear advantage for Golden State is Steph Curry. Patty Mills (the Spurs starting point guard now that Parker is out) is good, but is not nearly a shut down PG defensively and most likely won’t challenge Curry offensively.
I will be surprised if this series goes 6 games, but if it does look for San Antonio to make this a physical series closing out on Golden State’s shooting space.
Enjoy the series! Maybe now we will get good basketball…