Okay, first off, a quick and dirty analysis of Game 1, which you'd no doubt read in some form or fashion from better analysts than I a hundred times over. But here are my notes, for the record. After that, I'll offer some bullet point thoughts for Game 3 and beyond...
First quarter: 28-23 Warriors
The Spurs played big, with either Duncan-Bonner or Duncan-Diaw, for the whole period, while the Warriors stayed small with Draymond Green as their PF the whole period, working with either Bogut or Ezili at center. For the last 5 seconds, they went micro with no bigs, for an offensive possession, with Thompson getting an excellent look at a floater but coming up short.
The height difference between the lineups allowed the Spurs to dominate the offensive boards, with Leonard, Duncan and Bonner (!) all cleaning up there, but snatching seven of them was possible, in part, due to the team’s WRETCHED shooting. 35% from the field, 0% from three, two assists, two turnovers.
The ball movement was terrible. The offensive was stagnant. The big three were all guilty of playing one-on-one, with Duncan the only one looking decent. Ginobili had no legs at all and almost all of his attempts were short. Leonard attacked his matchups against shorter people aggressively, but his shots were all wayward. There were very few forays into the paint despite the height advantage, and none of them were successful.
Defense was okay (43%) for the most part, though the W’s made 4-of-8 from downtown. Parker and Neal both got roasted. On one sequence Leonard gave up three straight good looks to Thompson. Parker was backed down in the post a couple of times and was okay. 28 points sounds like a lot, but there were a couple of fluky shots in there. The real problem, defensively, is that the W’s put up so many shots because they didn’t commit a single turnover. Spurs allowed way too much room for easy passes and dribble drives. Warriors had pretty good spacing throughout.
Second quarter: 34-20 Warriors
Warriors started very small, with Landry as their only big, but after Spurs scored two consecutive inside baskets, they got away from that and paired Ezili with Landry, for a 4:16 stretch of dueling backup bigs.
The Spurs were pitiful defensively in this scenario. Splitter, coming off a relatively long lay-off, was way too soft inside and got outworked for a number of easy Warriors buckets by Landry and Ezili. Thompson knocked down a couple of threes in transition and one more off a clueless Neal, who also exhibited some ghastly shot selection on offense.
However, where the night really went to hell is when the starters checked in for both sides at the 6:33 mark, with the Warriors making a 10-3 run, capitalizing off some wide open misses from 3 from Danny Green. It was, sadly, our best ball movement of the period, but for naught. The Warriors, meanwhile, backed Parker down in the post, took advantage of the double and worked the ball around for a wide open Thompson three from the corner.
Once the Spurs went small vs. small at the 3:10 mark, with Duncan and Bogut as the only bigs, the Warriors finished off the half with an 8-2 run.
The Spurs ended the half with four assists and five turnovers. They were 0-of-7 from deep, while Thompson was 5-of-6 in the period and the Dubs were 9-of-16 as a team in the half, with the starting guards accounting for all nine makes. That’s a 27-0 advantage from downtown.
Third Quarter: 29-21 Spurs
By all rights this was the period the Spurs should’ve sliced a huge chunk off the Warriors’ lead, since they held the Dubs to just 36 percent shooting and just 1-of-5 from three. However, they only shot 44 percent themselves and converted on just 3-of-7 bombs (bringing them to 3-of-14 for the game).
Interestingly enough, this bout of defense happened with the Spurs, perhaps in desperation mode, going small the whole quarter, with either Duncan or Splitter as the lone hub. Ironically, there was a brief stretch where the Warriors were actually “big” (albeit with the Ezili-Landry combo) vs. the Spurs smalls, with Landry checking Leonard and actually winning their individual match-up. Overall the Warriors did have some spacing issues with the two of them playing together though, and couldn’t take advantage of Duncan the way they did Splitter in the second period.
Curry and Thompson were a combined 3-of-12 in the period, with one of the makes being Thompson’s crushing three at the buzzer. Duncan was considerably more aggressive and quicker hedging out on them on the screen-and-roll than he had been in the first half, and the pair also had a couple of unsuccessful forays toward the rim that they were displeased did not turn into free throw attempts.
It sounds obvious to say, but this is the kind of aggression with which the Spurs will have to defend going forward. Do not give these guys room, and if you do make mistakes, make mistakes of aggression versus ones of passiveness.
Offensively while it wasn’t perfect, there was at least some urgency in the play and some quicker passes, but Neal’s reckless shot selection, as well as some bricks from Duncan inside, gummied up the works. If they just made a couple more threes and a couple more free throws and that Thompson three at the end rimmed out, it would’ve been anyone’s game going into the fourth.
Fourth Quarter: 19-17 Spurs
More of the same. On the heels of that Thompson three to end the third, another bad omen came in the start of the final period, where the Spurs failed to capitalize on a couple of possessions where Landry was the only “big,” in there.
Beyond that though, the Spurs just couldn’t string enough shots together, not nearly enough really, and every time they got within 6-8 points, the Warriors would answer, whether it was their only non-Curry/Thompson three of the game from Draymond Green, or a couple of tough fade-aways from Jack or that ridiculous scoop shot on the drive from Curry. Always something.
In the end, you have to blame the offense (or lack thereof). The Warriors scored 38 points in the second half, meaning that the Spurs would’ve needed just 57 to catch them, a perfectly reasonable number for this team, especially with all their shooters on the floor. A part of it could’ve just been bad luck, a part could’ve been that just didn’t have their legs after the double-overtime marathon a couple nights before and a part could’ve been the team’s relative unfamiliarity playing all those small ball lineups after playing “big” virtually the whole regular season.
Alright, straight away there's something we've all got to realize and accept: We are now the underdogs in this series. Overwhelming underdogs? It depends on your definition. I'd put our odds of pulling it out around 35%. At the very least, this Game 2 loss has forced us into a situation where the best case scenario is winning a grueling, mentally taxing, nerve-wracking Game 7.
It's not that I think the Warriors are a better team than the Spurs. Not at all. A 106 minute sample size does not compare to an 82-game regular season. But the Warriors have a rabid, hellacious fan base and their arena will be a very tough place to capture a game now that these young sharks are smelling our blood. It's one thing to go into a tough building with a 2-0 series lead. The fans are still excited, but it's somewhat muted, since they know the best scenario is a 2-2 split after four games and that their squad still has to capture a road game. However, in a 1-1 series the fans know their guys have the home court advantage and a chance to really put a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
I imagine anyone who's watched these two games has been quite impressed by this Warriors team so far, but I'm telling you, these Warriors aren't nearly as good as the squad we're gonna have to beat at least once in the "Roaracle." They're going to have much more energy up there, they'll play with even more intensity and emotion, and they'll be that much more resilient in chasing after loose balls and crashing the glass. Our only hope is that all that extra adrenaline will lead to some wonky shooting and perhaps a few fouls.
Speaking of fouls though, my real concern in that regard is that now, with Russell Westbrook out for the Thunder and grind-it-out, small-market Grizzles as the only other alternative, the Warriors will be the default choice for the bandwagoners and casual fans out there, and thus they'll be the ones to receive the refereeing bump from Emperor Stern. The zebras get influenced and intimidated enough in normal regular season games out there, but now, in this situation where just about everyone is pulling for the sweet-shooting Cinderella Warriors, with their college-like offense (all guards chucking, all the time), the whistles are going to be that much more in their favor.
We saw some hints of it in Game 2. Ginobili could not buy a trip to the line, despite getting constantly hit on his drives to the basket. They called one critical fourth quarter charge on him on what should've been an and-1 against a moving Andrew Bogut. Similarly, Parker and Duncan were abused down low, with scant few calls. I have a very bad feeling that the refereeing will only tilt further and further against the Spurs as this series goes on, similar to last year's Western Conference Finals. The Spurs are gonna have to be not one point better but 15 points better. They'll have to beat the Warriors and the referee bump.
Another obstacle is the schedule. Can Stern make it any more obvious that he doesn't want the Spurs to make it out of this round? While Knicks-Pacers and Thunder-Grizzlies get three says off between Games 2 and 3, our guys have to play every other day the whole series unless it goes the full seven, where they'll have a two-day break. It gets particularly ridiculous between Games 3 and 4, where they'll barely get 36 hours of rest between the two games, thanks to a 12:30 p.m. local time tip-off slated for Mother's Day. If the Spurs can somehow pull off an upset and win Game 3, look for Pop to punt Game 4 early, happy to rest his big guns and let the W's win a blowout out home to turn the series into a best-of-three. If the Spurs don't win Game 3 though... ugh.
With all those intangible negatives out of the way, however, you'll be pleased to find that there are on the court positives. As mentioned above, the Spurs did hold the Warriors to just 38 points in the second half of Game 2, playing almost exclusively small. They didn't do anything revolutionary on defense, the perimeter guys just got up on their man and the bigs hedged hard on all screen-and-rolls. The five guys played together and communicated better, quicker to cut off penetration to the basket. When they did leave shooters open, they were careful to let it be Draymond Green for the most part, or maybe Barnes, but not Thompson or Curry so much.
Splitter was soft inside protecting the rim and rebounding, but he did show pretty good mobility in his hedging. I'm hopeful that Pop will scrap the idea of starting Bonner alongside Duncan and go back to the regular starting lineup, in the hopes that the team can get off to better starts by banging inside. As I feared before the series started, there really isn't much use for Bonner in this series. There's just no good match-up for him unless the Warriors play with two bigs for a prolonged stretch and Landry's the guy who has to be out there guarding him out to the three point line. Unless that scenario comes to pass, I'd prefer to just stick with Duncan and Splitter (maybe some Diaw mixed in), with strict small-ball lineups -- Leonard as the four -- as the alternative when either of the two bigs needs to rest.
The Spurs have no excuse -- NONE -- to lose at home to the Warriors with their full lineup when they allow just 100 points. In Game 1 Green and Leonard had 40 points between them. In Game 2, they totaled 21, which just won't get it done. They have to combine for 30, minimum, for the Spurs to win these games. Also, none of the big three have really played well -- Duncan's Game 2 came closest -- in either of the first two games. Despite that, we've got a series split. If we can just get our five main guys to just play average games for them offensively, that depth of scoring should be too much for the Warriors to overcome.
Because here's the thing: As well as Curry and Thompson fill it up -- and they certainly are explosive -- the Warriors just have too many guys who are too limited in their offensive arsenal. That team needs their starting guards to shoot almost every time out because they don't have other options. Their bigs, whether it's Bogut, Landry or Ezili, have hardly any range. Draymond Green is a streaky shooter. Barnes is not someone who's going to shoot an efficient percentage. David Lee is not a factor. It's just a simple matter of the Spurs playing as hard as they did in the second half and as smart and skillfully on offense as they've shown they can the past two seasons. We're not asking for a miracle here, we're asking for them to be the Spurs.
In that vein, isn't it about damn time for this team to show us something? Do you realize the Spurs haven't had a postseason series where they dropped at least one game but not four since the first round in 2009 against the Mavericks? Since that first round, anybody who's beaten them once has just kept on beating them, finding that magical formula, smashing the delicate confidence of the Spurs' role players, and out-maneuvering Pop on the chess board, as somehow "the best coach in the NBA" couldn't find a way to make the adjustments to pull his teams out of tailspins.
Championship Spurs teams of the past were made of steel. They weren't better than their opposition, they were harder. Meaner. Colder. They relished road games, attacked the paint relentlessly with their big three and nailed clutch threes like clockwork. They excelled in every facet of the game but shooting free throws, whereas this edition can't do anything but that, it seems (and not even that in Game 2). If these Spurs want their fans to regain their faith, they have to put forth a dominant effort from the opening tip tonight, establishing ownership of the paint on both sides, matching the Warriors' energy, enthusiasm and marksmanship while playing a hell of a lot smarter, and restoring order to the proceedings. They have to dominate the game to such an extent that everyone at Oracle will be left thinking, "Well, we'll get 'em in Game 4" by the middle of third quarter. Forget the second half comebacks. Those aren't happening against the Warriors on the road. If the Spurs want to win at Oakland, they gotta jump on them from the jump. Can they do it? Sure. Will they? I doubt it. Prove me wrong.
I watched the game intently, and I have to say I think too much has been made of Parker being taken to the woodshed down low by Barnes and Green. I thought he held up pretty well against those guys, did a good job of fronting them and didn't give up too many baskets at all. There were a couple of times where the Spurs were forced to double and were hurt by the string of passes that ensued, but overall, it wasn't anymore of an efficient method of attack for the W's than anything else they did. I'm more concerned with Parker's work on offense against Thompson.
One area where Pop erred -- CLEARLY -- was not managing Ginobili's minutes better in the Lakers series. Manu -- honest to a fault -- mentioned how exhausted he was playing 36 minutes in Game 1 vs. the Warriors, and anyone with a brain should've realized that he wasn't going to have much in the tank for Game 2. As we saw, he had no legs in any of his shots and everything hit the front rim.
I know the Lakers games were blowouts and that Ginobili was coming off the hamstring injury, but Pop still should've gradually upped his minutes from 20 to 23 to 26 to 28 over the four games. Instead, Ginobili had to ramp up from 19-20-20-19 to a week break to 36. Real smart. Hopefully Manu will find a way to give the team a really good 28-30 minutes in Game 3, because he's going to do nothing in Game 4.
With Stephen Jackson not on the team and Tracy McGrady not a realistic option, Gary Neal is playing, by necessity 20 minutes a night in this series. While it was nice to see that he wasn't abused on defense in Game 2 -- he gave up a few but wasn't torched-- if his shot selection doesn't improve we're gonna be in major trouble. Neal didn't even bother looking to pass whenever he touched the ball on Wednesday and some of his attempts were just gross. Why he's such a ball-hog these days I have no idea but it's not helping the team at all. I think I'd rather try McGrady, honestly. At least he'd be selective with his shots and looking to move the ball.
From the "This Man Gets Paid To Analyze Basketball Games" department: Kenny Smith advocated that Pop should give DeJuan Blair some playing time, reasoning that Blair could not only do a solid job of guarding Landry inside, but that "he's got the mobility to guard guys like Green or Barnes out to three point line."
He also said Blair is "6'7" or 6'8".
While we're fantasizing here, Blair also has a sweet crossover dribble and is money on elbow threes. He rides unicorns to ballgames and poops in plaid.
I'm not asking for TNT to hire Sean Elliott, I'm really not. But can we get one color man who doesn't openly root against the Spurs during broadcasts? Just one time? Make it a bit less obvious fellas. It's ridiculous how "loyal" Chris Webber is to the Warriors considering how he completely screwed that franchise over after one year and it took them like a decade to recover from his jackassery.
Your guest color guys for Game 3: Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Steve Nash and Mark Cuban. Oh, and it's going to be an ESPN broadcast. Just fantastic. Just shoot me now.
Is Pop really gonna get out-coached by a guy who was down to his last timeout with 8:00 to go in Game 2? Really?