The Spurs faced the Warriors in their final road game and overall penultimate game of the regular season. The Golden State Warriors clinched their second playoff appearance since the 1993-94 season and their first since 2006-07, when the 'I Believe' Warriors met and defeated the 1st seeded-67 win Dallas Mavericks.
That 06'-07' squad was an eclectic group led by Baron Davis, former Spur, Stephen Jackson, current Milwaukee Buck Monta Ellis, the LA Clippers' Matt Barnes, and Philadelphia's Jason Richardson. Led by Don Nelson, the scrappy team played up to their competition. The Warriors disturbed Dirk Nowitzki, forcing the MVP into bad performances by bodying him up with Stephen Jackson. The rest of the Mavericks couldn't step up and the Warriors were the first 8th seed to take out a 1st seed in a best of seven game series.
The Warriors and Spurs both had two games left in their schedule coming into their match-up but only Golden State's playoff seeding was still at stake. Depending on a number of factors, golden State can finish 6th-8th, which could give them a variety of first round opponents. Their best bet would be to try to go for the 6th seed and possibly go against the Nuggets or the Clippers. Oklahoma City will finish first, while the Spurs are locked into the second seed. The Nuggets, Clippers, and Grizzlies are still battling for the 3rd seed in order to avoid playing each other in a first round dogfight. Neither of these teams would be good match-ups for the Warriors but the Clippers would be an exciting first round opponent that Golden State has had success against. With the Rockets losing at Phoenix (and likely losing to the Lakers in their final game of the regular season), the Warriors have at least the 6th or 7th seed locked up. The Spurs have the 2nd seed locked up and Pop sees no reason to play his stars, opting to rest them for the playoffs.
Stephen Curry entered the game nine 3-point field goals away from breaking the single season record set by Ray Allen in 2005-06. Curry is hitting 3.5 three-pointers per game this season and, even though he's missed 4 games, has a shot to tie or break the record. After hitting 9 threes against the Lakers (in a 47 point effort) he's just that much closer. With their playoff berth clinched, I have no doubt that Coach Mark Jackson had given him the green light to try to break it. After hitting 10 threes against New York in Madison Square Garden and 9 in Staples Center, Curry has shown his ability to rise to the occasion under the brightest lights.
The Spurs moved into the post-season last year on a 10 game winning streak, but had gone 5-5 going into the Warriors game. They reeled off 10 straight in the playoffs last year, and were prematurely crowned the champs by many before losing 4-in-a-row to Kevin Durant, James Harden, and great shooting nights from the Thunder's post players. Splitting their last 10 games up to now, they've looked lethargic against nearly every team they've faced but are more focused on getting some rest during these final days. Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw are out with previous injuries and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard are resting their sore knees for the post season. Needless to say, the Spurs were at less than full strength going into last night's game.
Pop's Post Game Quote
"It's actually fun to watch...Everybody hates losing, but I enjoyed watching a talented kid perform the way he did, and he does it with class."
On Stephen Curry taking the Warriors to victory. I'm betting Pop wasn't upset that his bench could take the Warriors that far and has confidence in the full Spurs squad's abilities to take them out.
I have to say, the Golden State Warriors backcourt is still somehow underrated. I know Stephen Curry gets a lot of love but Klay Thompson is no slouch. The two guards shot 23/40 (58%) for 58 points. They also had 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks amongst them. Klay had an impressive +/- at +30, and was far and away the best player of the game. In a key run (21-3) through the fourth quarter, Jarrett Jack had 4 of his 12 assists and made two jumpers himself, accounting for 13 of those 21 points. The Warriors lack depth at the forward and center positions, but have supplemented that through this year's draft, selecting a starter in Harrison Barnes and backup center, Festus Ezeli. Along with Curry's hot shooting, the two rookies powered the Warriors past the 2nd squad of the already depleted Spurs. Curry hit 7 three pointers, 3 of them in that late run, exciting the crowd and putting them in the lead for good. The Spurs tried to make the deficit respectable (they were down as much as 20 with five minute left) but could not get over the hump.
The Spurs were without five of their key players and lost by 10. Those five guys make up the best lineups for the Spurs along with Tiago Splitter and Danny Green. The Spurs were in the game the entire first half and even the third quarter but couldn't keep it going on a back to back in a hostile arena. They were tired and couldn't get shots up in the second half, succumbing to pressure early and often. After criticizing Gary Neal in yesterday's Rehash, I have to take my argument back. As the designated shooter, Gary had the green light to shoot as much as he pleased. Neal kept the team in the game during the first, as he pulled a Steve Blake, scoring 18 of his 25 in the first half. Unfortunately, Neal was pressured a ton in the second half and, with the game out of hand, Pop decided to rest him instead of taking a chance with Gary's lingering leg issues.
Stephen Curry was on fire against the Spurs, hitting 7 threes, grabbing 8 boards and still getting 5 assists. His all around game is really improving.
Danny Green didn't do terribly but he had the least positive impact for the Spurs. He was used sparingly and didn't have much of an effect in general.
By the Numbers
- 19-0 - Run by the Warriors in the 4th quarter that put the Spurs away for good.
- 45% - 3 point shooting percentage for the Warriors, helped by Stephen Curry's 54%.
- -14 - Rebounding differential for the Spurs, who were out-rebounded 54-39. Spurs had zero double digit rebounders.
- 48 - Points scored by Gary Neal and Patty Mills. Neal hit 10 of 15 shots while Patty hit 9 of 16. They were out gunned by Stephen Curry, who's on a tear this season. Curry and Klay Thompson together scored 58 themselves.
- 29 - Points off of turnovers for the Spurs, who capitalized on the 21 Golden State turnovers. The Spurs had 15 of their own but the Warriors could only muster 5 points. There were a couple of possessions in which the Warriors would steal the ball and then lose it right away.
- 5 - Difference in free throws between the two teams. The Warriors drove more often to the hoop and were called to the line more often than the Spurs. They also hit 83% compared to 62% for the Spurs.
- 60 - Not reaching that win number this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder got it tonight, their first ever. Impressive season. 60 just looks so much better than a high 50s.
- 1 - Block by the Spurs, who sorely miss Tim Duncan in the middle. Matt Bonner tried to do his best, supplying the lone block for the Spurs.
- 30 - Assists for the Spurs, a great number and higher than average. Cory Joseph had 8 assists (as well as 10 points in 33 minutes) while Nando De Colo had 9 but seemed to struggle more from the field than Joseph. Nando had 5 steals and Joseph had 6 rebounds, as both guards tried to fill in for injured superstars. Even in a losing effort, and on a back to back, the boys impressed me with how much they tried. Their defense wasn't the best, but Stephen Curry was just on fire. Hard to stop that.
Odds & Ends
- Klay Thompson is looking like a great pick a couple of years ago. He was selected 11th in the loaded first round of the 2011 draft. Nearly every player in the top 10 (minus Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette) have had great contributions to their teams, especially this year, as Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas and Kemba Walker have come into their own. Klay Thompson has been doing great, as have his draft counterparts, Kawhi Leonard, Nicola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Kenneth Faried. Cory Joseph and Jimmy Butler were also selected in the first round. This looks like it could be a good crop for the near future.
- Five Spurs scored in double digits, with Gary Neal and Patty Mills leading the way. They passed the ball well and tried to make life tough for the Warriors. Unfortunately for San Antonio, they couldn't capitalize on their 14 more shot attempts (made one fewer than Golden State) and essentially lost the game because they couldn't hit shots. Curry and Thompson were on fire during the fourth and if the Spurs could have hit a shot during that 19-0 run, the game might have gone in another direction. That's what superstars are for though, to get you points when you absolutely need them. If the Spurs need to get a bucket, I give it to Timmy on the elbow open for a jump shot.
- Curry played 39 minutes, Lee 36, Thompson 35, Barnes 33 and Jack 30, and they only beat the bench Spurs by 10? That's a good game for the Spurs in my book. No Spur played more than 32 minutes and the usual starters that did play (Danny Green and Tiago Splitter) both logged less than 20. The Spurs played good defense at first and slipped in the second half, but their offensive game was flowing well, they just couldn't buy a shot in the second half.
- Harrison Barnes is looking like a good draft pick as wel, but the rookie forward had 6 turnovers against the Spurs, double the next highest Warrior. Barnes grabbed 7 rebounds and scored 11 points but he isn't polished enough to play closer minutes, which at the moment is Jarrett Jack Time. Jarrett didn't score much either but he did pass, getting 12 assists. Jack is a beast when it comes to playing the Spurs, much like DeMarcus Cousins (sort of), James Harden, and Greivis Vasquez.
- Gary Neal was great tonight and seemingly could get any shot he wanted, hitting 66.7% overall. In a turnaround to yesterday's game, Gary came out firing, notching 18 in the first half alone. Neal didn't play much in the second but still had 4 rebounds and 5 assists along with 5 turnovers. High usage, high risk, high reward.
- Festus Ezeli liked not having many big guys to move around. Festus grabbed 13 rebounds in his 29 minutes and was often paired up against the smaller DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, and Aron Baynes. Festus was able to out rebound everyone in the game. This could have been the Spurs' first round pick this year but we lost it due to the Stephen Jackson trade last year. No player selected after Ezeli has had much of an impact so I don't feel too bad about it. Sad about SJax though.
Bird is the Word
If you can read Spanish, check out this interview that Manu did with Argentinian newspaper, Olé. It's great, and really shows you how much of a competitor that Manu is. Ginobili wants to come back and play so much and is frustrated about his body betraying him. Google Chrome can translate the page for you but you can use Google Translate if you need to - it does a decent enough job.
Entrevista con Olé sobre mis sensaciones después de la lesión y futuro en la selección. ole.com.ar/basquet/titulo...— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) April 13, 2013
Going into the Next Game, the Spurs need to...
...play the bench. I love seeing what might be the future of the Spurs one day in Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, and Aron Baynes. The guards have this slow lumbering way of driving to the hoop that clears out space and is somehow effective. Baynes is impressing me more and more, as he muscles down low for good rebounds and put backs. Minnesota will be up to the challenge but Spurs should be able to go for the win. According to some sources, Manu might play so be on the lookout for a surprise outing.