WHY SPURS ARE LOOK­ING FOR AN­SWERS VS. WAR­RIORS

Even with­out Curry, Golden State finds miss­ing in­ten­sity.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Mc­Don­ald San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

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.

THEARON W. HEN­DER­SON / GETTY IMAGES

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.

THEARON W. HEN­DER­SON / GETTY IMAGES

Coach Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker look for an­swers against the War­riors in Satur­day’s 113-92 play­off loss. Game 2 is Mon­day night.

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