WHY SPURS ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS VS. WARRIORS
Even without Curry, Golden State finds missing intensity.
Late Wednesday night OAKLAND, CALIF. — and into Thursday morning, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat down with his staff to try and concoct some way of slowing down the defending NBA champions in the opening round of the playoffs.
What he saw on film surprised him. The Warriors limped down the home stretch of the season, a step slow and a lot disinterested. Popovich also noticed something else. “I noticed that Steph wasn’t there,” Popovich said. “I watched real closely. I turned it off for a while. I turned it back on, and he still wasn’t there.”
But by the end of a dominating 113-92
Golden State victory in Game 1 on Saturday at Oracle Arena, it didn’t matter that All-Star guard Stephen Curry was in street clothes nursing a knee sprain.
Not to the Warriors. And not to the Spurs.
With therest of Golden State’s cadre of All-Stars dialing up the intensity to playoff levels as promised, the Spurs stood little chance of drawing first blood in the Western Conference first round series.
Kevin Durant got the Warriors going with 24 points and Klay Thompson enjoyed a
near-perfect shooting day en route to a game-high 27, as Golden State never trailed en route to staking a 1-0 series lead.
“We did not end the season on a high note,” said Thompson, who finished 11 of 13 from the floor and 5 of 6 from 3-point range. “We kind of hobbled into the playoffs. But we know how good we are. We know what it takes to win.”
Publicly and privately, Warriors coach Steve Kerr wondered if his team had a switch it could flip once the postseason arrived.
The Warriors lost 10 of 17 games to close the regular season.
Kerr’s answer came early Saturday, as the Warriors held the overmatched Spurs to 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting in the first quarter.
By halftime, the Spurs trailed by 16. The Warriors led by as many as 28 in the second half.
“We looked like deer in the headlights,” Popovich said. “I thought we were prepared mentally and physically, but I was mistaken.”
Kerr pulled a surprise to open the game, starting small forward Andre Iguodala in Curry’s spot at point guard instead of rookie Quinn Cook.
The added size in the backcourt gave the Warriors matchup advantages all over the floor. The Warriors took advantage of whoever guard Patty Mills was guarding, run him through screens until he found himself matched with either Durant or Thompson.
On the other end, Mills couldn’t find daylight against Golden State’s length, going 2 for 5 for five points.
“It was a bad game from the start,” said forward Rudy Gay, who led the Spurs with 15 points and six rebounds and started the second half in place of Kyle Anderson. “I don’t think we’re outmatched or anything. We can compete with anybody.”
There will be much for the Spurs to figure out before returning to Oracle for Game 2 on Monday.
LaMarcus Aldridge ended Game 1 with 14 points on 5 of 12 shooting. He began the afternoon flummoxed by Golden State’s JaVale McGee — who scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter — then found himself swarmed by the Warriors’ trapping defense later in the game.
“They put out the guys that they trusted, and they played well,” said Aldridge, who found two rebounds in 24 minutes. “It’s not about them, it’s about us. We’ve got to be better. I thought we didn’t play as ourselves.”
After Game 1, there is some question as to whether simply playing as themselves will be enough for the Spurs.
Asked, for instance, if he might adjust the matchup of Danny Green defending Durant to open the game, Popovich chuckled.
“We’ll have Danny grow four or five inches by Monday night, tell him to jump higher and move quicker,” Popovich said. “And we’ll tell Kevin, ‘Don’t be so good.’”
The Spurs always knew this was going to be a tough order, especially with Kawhi Leonard out.
If last season’s Leonard-less sweep in the conference finals didn’t prove it, Saturday did:
If the Warriors are engaged, the Spurs are in trouble.
JaVale McGee of the Warriors blocks the shot of LaMarcus Aldridge in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series Saturday night. Golden State won 113-92 in Oakland, with Game 2 on Monday night.
Coach Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker look for answers against the Warriors in Saturday’s 113-92 playoff loss. Game 2 is Monday night.