2017 WCF G1: Warriors 113 – Spurs 111

The Spurs were up 25-points and after Kawhi Leonard left after another ankle injury, the Warriors stormed back with an 18-0 run and stole the game from the shorthanded crew to win 113-111.

Pop said the Spurs let it “slip away” and blamed some turnovers and poor play for blowing the lead. In the second half the Spurs were outscored like 58-33 after Kawhi left the game. They struggled without Tony and Kawhi as primary ball handlers/ rim attacking threats. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled (especially compared to his 11-point first quarter performance) and the KD and Curry made shots.

Aside from that, game one was a test of some theories.

Theory 1: Layoffs Do Not Hurt You

Result: Wrong. The most talented team ever assembled came out of the gate struggling, tossing turnovers, and missing shots (and free throws!).

Theory 2: Spurious’ WCF Preview How-To-Beat-GSW-Guide

It can be found here, but we will recap it now.

  1. Draymond needs to hurt his team
  2. Warrior’s Carelessness
  3. Kawhi & Aldridge need to be great
  4. Everyone needs to get hot

When the Spurs were up 25, these boxes were checked. Draymond was not destroying his team with technicals (that came after Kawhi left) but he was not his normal self. The Warriors were sluggish and turned the ball over often, and missed shots. Kawhi and LaMarcus were outstanding. LMA looked like the guy in Houston for game six. Kawhi looked like unguardable and mixed in a of playmaking. While Patty was cold, Manu had 9 first half points, Jonathan Simmons was hitting jumpers and Danny Green was 2-of-2 from three while playing good defense. Things were going perfectly.

Theory 3: The Spurs could win a quarter and a half if spotted a 23-point lead without Kawhi.

Nope.

The Game

Let us be real with ourselves. This was likely the best chance the team had at stealing a win. The Spurs had the element of surprise and all of the luck … until the worst possible luck.

The game plan involved some really clever attacks on the Warriors substitution patterns, that allowed the squad to put in lineups that could help off shooters and attack poor defenders. Most, if not all, of the breaks went San Antonio’s way, including turnovers and poor shooting from Klay Thompson.

In the end the other Spurs were not enough of a match for Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. That is not something we can be angry about. Down the stretch Golden State relied on Steph and KD to make plays and they did. The Spurs relied on Jonathan Simmons and LaMarcus Aldridge.

It was not so simple as I am putting it here. Manu was great down the stretch, and the Warriors were smart and disciplined enough to recognize he was the most likely go-to playmaker. When Jonathan Simmons missed his pull-up 14′ jump shot, he was the second option. Shaun Livingston denied Ginobili the ball, and Simmons was left to make a play.

The Warriors made a concerted effort to unstick their playmakers and get good looks for their guys. Steph said they “simplified” things, and when Zaza abused Patty on a series of simple pick-n-rolls that was evident.

When Pop inserted Kyle Anderson for some quality offense (he was great on both ends) they quickly went to Kevin Durant. Kyle had nothing for him.

This week Stephen Jackson said that the defensive scouting report on teams is what makes the Spurs great. They are the best-prepared team in the league. As you might imagine, this is partly why the Spurs can turn some of the weakest individual defenders into useful parts of the best defense in the league.

Kyle Anderson made some quality steals but cannot stay in front of a locked-in Kevin Durant.

The Spurs are consistently good each year because they maximize the talent they have but superior talent often wins. One reason the Warriors are so good is that they also maximize their talent. They also have superior talent.

Kawhi

Obviously the chances of beating Golden State in game two are drastically reduced if he is hurt. Everyone has repeated the similarly very obvious point that the Spurs would have likely stat him for the second game if they managed to steal the first.

The organization will make the best decision for his future health, and prepare the team as best as possible for the series. I do not buy the thinking that Pop risked his health by keeping him out there after he first tweaked it. He had to have gotten the okay to play through it. He looked fine in the minute leading up to the jump shot. Also, given what we saw transpire after he left the court, simply sitting him for health reasons would have meant a similar result if he does not ever play.

Injury risk is part of the game.

Aldridge

I have said previously that the team is the team. The decision to roll with Aldridge and his faults was made two years ago when they gave him a big contract. When he is good, he is one of the best in the game. That first quarter explosion was the kind of thing that only a handful of big men in the game can produce. Unfortunately he is not always at that level. He is not ultra reliable late and he showed that with the disastrous 4th quarter.

LMA 2nd Half:

11 points on 4/13 shooting, 4 rebounds, 5 turnovers.

He was 2/9 in the final quarter, including the missed three to tie. Gone was the aggressive, attacking Aldridge and in his place was the one resorting to a fadeaway too often.

The Other Guys

Dejounte Murray is going to be really good. He is not scared of the moment and played big in his minutes. He still needs a jump shot and to add some more strength so he is not bumped off the ball so often but he is a quality dude.

Patty Mills was bad, but that happens. Danny Green was good in spots. If Kawhi cannot go the only hope is that both of these guys are on. Everyone was kind of shook after Kawhi left, and I appreciate Manu for saying as much. The Warriors hinted at this when praising the crowd “they [Spurs] felt the crowd, too.” If we are going to beat up on LaMarcus, we should also point out that Danny Green allowed Steph Curry to walk by him for a bucket to make it five. Danny also missed the potential tying three right before that.

Jonathan Simmons is having a great week. He won rightful praise for going against Harden, and had a solid outing this afternoon. He cannot bang with Draymond for long periods, but in doses he is the kind of game-changer we all thought he would be.

Pau was bad. He drew lots of cheap fouls and so had to sit, reducing the Spurs’ rebounding edge. He still is not contributing much of anything offensively aside from ball movement, but against this team that is not enough. He needs to get buckets against the likes of Zaza or else it could be Dewayne Dedmon time.

Manu nearly pulled the game out for the Spurs. Mark Jackson blamed Manu’s effort for the three that Steph hit to tie at 106. GSW got two offensive rebounds and then the bucket. Every time I watch the sequence I think of it differently. He could have boxed out better but long rebound are tough to predict. Especially from guys like Curry and Durant. On the other end he was the only one that could reliably create, and scored twice on Draymond, and mixed in a dunk on Shaun Livingston. While it is fun to watch Manu do Manu things, if we have to turn back the clock to 2007 for this series, it is definitely over.

Game Two

I expected a lull in this one, and a strong comeback effort from GSW. The lull was longer than expected but I think Kawhi could have stemmed the tide a bit for the team late. In that alternate universe the Spurs are up 1-0 and facing an angry Warrior team. In this universe the Spurs are down 0-1 and facing that same angry and locked-in Warrior team sans Kawhi.

Game three was always going to be the best chance of a Spur victory and this game would have only been icing. The scary part of Golden State was evident in this one, however. That 18-0 run was the kind of eruption that put away Portland and Utah, but merely cut the deficit in this one. I do not see the Spurs building another 25-point lead to protect them from that roster next game. Klay Thompson is due to explode soon. He missed a few wide-open looks from deep that should have put the Spurs to bed sooner that we saw.