The Spurs entered this game with no chance of moving up or down in seeding after OKC won and decided to rest Parker, Duncan and Leonard on their match against a Warriors team that was vying for playoff positioning. This was a BABA recap for me and the game was starting late here in Argentina, so I was both expecting and welcoming a blowout that would allow me to get it done quickly. If that wasn't in the cards, I wanted the game to be as fun as possible; one were you could see the Spurs scrubs enjoying themselves and one where there was not defense and the score was high. I kind of got both.
Spurs fans know all too well how good teams sometimes play down to inferior or shorthanded opponents. All I have to say is, it was nice to be on the other side for a change.
The Warriors salivated at the sight of Matt Bonner at small forward and wanted to exploit that mismatch as much as possible. Unfortunately for them, Matt Bonner might look goofy but he is smart and Harrison Barnes is not the best at creating offense for himself. This has happened to the Spurs all season: they see a mismatch and so stubbornly try to exploit it that they forget to run their offense. While Golden State was trying to feed Barnes the ball or force a switch for Klay Thompson to attack a smaller defender they were ignoring that their bigs, especially David Lee, were getting whatever they wanted inside.
Another great role reversal from bad losses this season was the inferior Spurs taking care of the ball and pushing the pace when the Warriors turned it over. At the half, the Spurs led on points off turnovers, second chance points and fast break points. They knew that in a half court match there was no way they could beat the Warriors. Sloppy games in which neither team plays defense always favor the inferior squad and for the first time this season the Spurs were the ones benefiting from it.
Gary Neal was scorching hot (18 first half points) and helped the team get buckets in the half court but pretty much everyone was hitting in the first half with the exception of Danny Green (0-5), who couldn't buy a bucket. The Warriors Big Three of Lee, Thompson and Curry finished with a combined 33 points but the Spurs surprisingly went into the break up three, 57-54
To start the third, Curry caught fire and the Warriors quickly got the lead. They tightened things up on defense as well, pressuring and trapping Gary Neal into turnovers and it seemed this one was getting ugly in a hurry for the Spurs. But after getting a max lead of eight points in the quarter the home team seemed to expect the Spurs' bench to fold and just hand them the game. With Neal and Mills leading the way, Splitter controlling the boards and everybody pitching in, the Spurs kept up and went into the fourth down only three. This was still anyone's game.
But the Warriors were not going to let the W slip away. The Rockets had lost a little earlier in Phoenix and a win against the Spurs meant getting the sixth seed back. After the Spurs tied it up at 84, the Warriors went on a 23-3 run to take away any possible suspense. The Spurs just couldn't find consistent scoring to counter the Warriors run on that stretch and Stephen Curry just went crazy and put our fighting scrubs away. It was fun, it was meaningless and it ended a little earlier than I would have predicted. I can't complain.
- I'm only going to talk about the young players. You know what guys like Green, Splitter, Blair, Curry, Lee and Jack can do. The only exception will be made to mention that Neal was ridiculously bad on defense in the first half. Like, laughably bad. But he made up for it with his scoring. That's Gary Neal for you.
- Cory Joseph got the start at PG and he did well. Cory never blows me away but he's pretty much always solid. He doesn't have that explosive first step Parker has or the shiftiness of Manu but he manages to get to the paint and he can definitely run a team.
- Nando is not looking good lately. Teams are just letting him shoot and he's not hitting. That takes away from his playmaking and I'd say that at this point Joseph seems like a better fit than De Colo as a back up PG alternative to Neal. Mills had a good game but I'm assuming he's out of the race at this point.
- Baynes looks like an NBA big to me. He still needs work but he rebounds well and his size alone makes him hard to guard and to score on. I doubt he gets run these playoffs but I could see him getting minutes as back up center next season.
- The announcers made a point of mentioning that Ezeli was selected with the pick the Spurs sent the Warriors on the Jefferson/Jackson trade. I was not too happy with the trade when it went down but the pick was low on my list of reasons. It looks terrible now that Ezeli looks like a solid rookie and Jackson was waived but late first rounders are a crap shoot. Maybe the Spurs keep the pick and select a bust. If Ezeli goes in the pick before, maybe the Warriors pick Marquis Teague and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
This game meant nothing for the Spurs and a lot for the Warriors. I honestly would have loved to see Tiago Splitter, who has played in every single game, resting next to Duncan, Leonard and Parker. The Spurs will finish second and will face one of the Warriors, Lakers and Rockets.
I'd rather face the Rockets for the selfish reason that I don't want games ending at 2AM but I think that, if they are healthy, the Spurs should win easily in the first round. There's one more game left in the regular season, against the Wolves at home. Manu might play, if he can find and persuade Pop. Let's hope no one gets hurt and let's get ready for the playoffs!
For the opponent's perspective, visit Golden State of Mind