The Golden State Warriors come into town as virtual opposites of the San Antonio Spurs, inconsistent versus consistent. With only a single playoff appearance since 1994, the Warriors have had a tough time competing in the Western Conference. With new additions such as David Lee, Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack...well, pretty much their entire roster, they've turned a new leaf and have shown that they belong in the playoffs this year. They're currently seeded in 6th, and barring a collapse from a team above them, won't go any higher than that. But even holding onto the 6th seed will be tough, as they only lead Houston by a single game and the Lakers by two and a half. Utah and Dallas are eagerly awaiting, hoping that the Warriors can slip a bit and lose some ground.
The Warriors finally have a positive point differential, after blowing out their first two opponents on this road trip, the Rockets and Pelicans (nee Hornets) respectively. After being in the playoff picture nearly all season with a negative point differential, I truly thought that the Warriors were due for a collapse at some point and wouldn't qualify for the postseason. If one takes a look at the standings, every team with a positive differential is in the playoffs if the season ended right now, and only Milwaukee has a negative differential. However, barring their around .500 slide in this calendar year, they've recouped the past week and have gained much needed games on their ever creeping competition.
Golden State is a monster on the boards, averaging the third most per game (compared to 22nd for San Antonio), and would likely have an advantage this meeting as well, as their oft-maligned new acquisition, Andrew Bogut, was to start and man the center against our Timmy Duncan. With a frontline of Bogut (career average 9.3 rebounds per game) and David Lee, another prolific rebounder (averaging 11.1 this year), the Spurs will have it tough guarding the boards against these guys. The Warriors are also 1st in 3 point percentage, hitting a ridiculous 40% of them. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are big reasons why, as Mr. Curry is hitting 46%, a bit more than his career average of 44%, and Thompson is hitting 40%, right around his career average. Together, they attempt nearly 14 threes a game, and make about 6 of them. That's about 18 guaranteed points from the perimeter right there. It's no wonder they score the 9th most points in the league, with David Lee manning the middle for most of the season, who also has the most double-doubles in the league. The Warriors employ a good inside outside game, with their point and shooting guards able to shoot at any moment, and active movement from their bigs inside, spacing the floor for both them and the shooters.
Mark Jackson, second year coach of the Warriors, famously declared that Golden State would make the playoffs in his first year ever as coach... in a lockout year. This prediction was eventually made false, as the Warriors realized they had no shot to make it to the postseason after Stephen Curry got hurt and Monta Ellis was being unproductive. They shipped him off to Milwaukee, where they acquired Andrew Bogut, who himself was out for the season due to a fractured ankle. He recently returned to the Warriors this season, and has helped them greatly on the defensive and rebounding end, the first which is more of a concern. Golden State has the 21st best defense in the league per points allowed, allowing 100.2, while only scoring 100.4 themselves. They've won lots of close games, but have lost them as well. Jackson hasn't made defense the priority, but has the Warriors thinking about it at least.
Quote of the Game
I thought he was a physical player tonight. He showed a penchant in sticking his nose in.
Pop post-game on Nando De Colo's performance tonight. I agree with Pop, Nando really showed he could play in the big leagues, and Pop is getting him ready for the playoffs, when the game slows down and gets more physical.
Quick Game Hash
The Warriors came into town high off of blowing out the Rockets and Hornets by more than 20 points each, wanting to extend their road streak to 3 against the Spurs. Things started off tight, with the Warriors playing the Spurs closely, but no one hitting any threes. The first ended at 22 apiece, but the Spurs took off in the second, aided by a couple of Red Rocket threes, a De Colo steal and fast break dunk, and some good ol' Stephen Jackson posting up and bombing his high arcing shots from the perimeter. The Spurs would win the quarter by 13 and never relinquish the lead again. Andrew Bogut and David Lee each got more than 10 rebounds, but they could not stop Tim Duncan, who had a statline of 25 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks, making it even more difficult to say which of his last three games has been more impressive. Timmy has been on fire and has been carrying the Spurs without Tony, showing why he's the GOATPUFF.
Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili contributed 17 and 16 points respectively, and also notched seven (rebounds and assists, respectively) on their respective 'jobs' stats. Manu was handling the ball for most of the game again, and distributed well, even though the Warriors were hounding players defensively, and making passes less crisp and on target. His shot wasn't falling, but Tiago's was, as he hit 6-12 shots, and along with Nando De Colo (5-6), helped the Spurs sail through rough seas. Stephen Curry seemed like he could find the bottom of the rim whenever he pleased, but he didn't get any help from his man inside, David Lee, who only hit 4-17 shots, registering 10 points due to a couple of free throws. Sure he got his double-double to stretch his lead, but Timmy got the win.
My Game Boss
Timmy turns in another throwback performance, as he proclaims, "Everything else feels really good. I feel healthy, moving well. (My) body feels good and shots are going in." We can tell Timmy, as you turn in another stat line like this.
My Game Runt
David Lee got his double-double, but it took him the same amount of shots as Tim Duncan, and he scored less than half of what Timmy did. He played more minutes, seemed more active (like the Warriors, who seem like active defenders, but are pretty average) but was not efficient.
The Thing Was Over When...
...Manu finally found his shot late in the fourth quarter. The Spurs were the entire game after the first quarter, but the pesky Warriors were never truly out of the game, cutting the lead back down to single digits seemingly after every time the Spurs extended it to double digits. Manu hit a three late in the fourth, Kawhi scored another, and the game was done.
Numbers of Note
- 9 - Wins by the Warriors when trailing after the 3rd, good for second in the league. They couldn't do it this time.
- 50% - 3 point percentage by the Warriors, above their season average of 40%. The Spurs couldn't stop them from making shots, but they could stop them from taking them, allowing only 6-12.
- 8 - Spurs with more than 6 points in the game. They distributed the points well, and every Spur scored except for Cory Joseph.
- -1 - Rebound differential for the Spurs, who gathered 38 rebounds compared to 39 by Golden State. Pretty good for the 22nd best team going against the 3rd best in the league.
- 27 - Assists by the Spurs, nearly topping 30 once again. The Spurs are distributing well, with four players notching over four assists: Manu (7), Timmy (6), Tiago (4) and Danny (4). Those last two were a surprise, huh?
- 17 - Turnovers by the Golden State Warriors, which the Spurs turned into 26 points. The Spurs had 12 points, but the Warriors could only make those into 13. Shows how efficient the Spurs are with their possessions. You definitely don't want to give them any more if you want to beat them.
- 15 - Free throw attempts by each team. Warriors missed one attempt and the Spurs missed two. Both teams are at the top in free throw percentage, with Stephen Curry leading the league at 91%.
- 1 - Technical foul on Tim Duncan, his 3rd of the season.
Odds & Ends
- Stephen Curry has a sweet shooting stroke. Every time he releases the ball, I think it's going in. He was 8-20 this game, showing how well the Spurs contained him, especially Kawhi, who was stuck on him after Curry made a few threes in the second half.
- Andrew Bogut played Tim Duncan very well, but is obviously still not a match for TD, and is clearly still recovering from his season ending injury last year. Once his ankle is healed up, the starting lineup for the Warriors will be tough: Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Lee and Bogut. That's good talent at each position.
- The game was being played pretty chippily and very physically, giving it the air of a playoff game. I was surprised that there weren't that many fouls called, and the refs were letting the game flow. SJax and Manu got hit a few times and got no calls, but the Warriors guards seemingly got them when they wanted them. The Warriors still committed more fouls than the Spurs.
- Tim Duncan once again didn't commit a foul, undoubtedly hiking up his Block/TO ratio, with 4 of the former and none of the latter. See Larry Sanders, that's how you stay in a game and change offenses. Timmy had a great block on Andrew Bogut early on, worth watching in the video recap.
- I hate to say it, but it seems like Danny Green has hit a dry spell, and can't seem to find his shot. After starting out hot this year, he seems to have regressed a bit without Tony driving to the hoop and hitting him for wide open shots. He can't get as free as he would like, and is driving inside more, which unfortunately, is not one of his strong points. For him to reach all that upside, he needs to keep working hard on his game, especially ball handling and attacking the basket, two crucial aspects of a great shooting guard's game (Manu, Kobe, James Harden all do this well).
- Manu still hasn't found his shot, but is passing the ball well and seems like he's in better shape. Hopefully all those shots start going down when we most need them, the postseason.
- Don't forget to look at my fanpost earlier this week, in which I petition the community for questions to ask Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland. Mr. Goldsberry has been so kind enough to speak with me next Monday, and I promised him I would ask him a few questions from PtR.
Going into the Next Game, the Spurs need to...
...Get ready to face the Jazz, who are fighting to stay relevant for one last year before their star frontcourt likely leaves for greener pastures. With great backups and future big men inside, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are more or less redundant, and much more expensive as well. The Jazz have never been a flashy team, and are unlikely to re-sign both men for the next phase in their gameplan. At this moment though, they are trying to catch the Kobe-less Lakers for 8th in the West, standing a game and a half behind LA. But while the Lakers face Washington next, the Jazz must face the class of the West.