Momentum is a funny thing. Sometimes you're cruising along and a setback out of nowhere knocks you off your stride, robbing you of your hard-earned velocity. Now every step is a struggle and it feels like it'll take forever to really get moving again. That feeling is, on so many levels, a deception: a self-defeating proclamation from that part of your brain that's not your friend and that you'd do well to learn to ignore.
A buddy of mine wrote an excellent article about momentum on his website (which is centered around personal development) and referenced the Stonecutter's Creedo we know so well. Do yourself a favor and check it out, as it discusses this topic in terms that Spurs fans, and £ers, are very familiar with.
As to the Spurs and the setback their momentum suffered at the hands of the Warriors on Wednesday night, I actually almost expected it. Someone told me that every time any team that lost a playoff game that they had led in the fourth quarter by more than 15 points, that team came back to win the next game. Now, I was never able to confirm this bit of data, but it rung true with me and I was never able to shake it off the way that I usually do with unspecific doomsday soothsaying.
It's easy to look at the way the Spurs have played through the first two games, and wonder if this is the way the rest of the series is going to go. I'm having those thoughts myself, for sure. Even watching Game 1, when Stephen Curry was going off in the third quarter, one of the Spurs, Danny Green maybe, shot and missed a three and I thought, "Why did he miss?" Because Curry makes it look so easy that my brain immediately clicked into a mode where it expected every shot every player took to go in, regardless of how difficult it was. When the opposing player is reaching that level, it's disconcerting. When multiple guys on the other team are taking turns getting into that zone, it's downright devastating. But that's not the whole truth.
Which brings me back to my opening about those self-defeating thoughts being a sham. Momentum is terribly important to maintain, but it's not the full story. When you're running at a comfortable pace and suddenly fall, working to get going again is essential. But focusing on your current lack of momentum, and comparing it to your previous speed, only serves to make you feel like your loss of momentum has set you back to zero. The truth is that significant ground had been gained before that setback, and that's something that can't be taken away by any fall.
The Spurs may be currently tied with Golden State, but they need just three more wins to put this series behind them.
Standard Pre-Game Pop Quote
I like this. It loosens me up.
-Popovich on a very non-standard line of questioning that really changed the tenor of his pregame presser.
Not all of last night's action consisted of Golden State three-pointers snapping the twine. Here's a GIF of Kawhi lifting off and slamming. I hope it lifts the spirits of many a disconsolate Spurs fan.
Yeah, that's better.
[Courtesy of Fred Silva]
The Essential Hash
Be sure to read Fred Silva's recap of last night's game if you haven't already. [Thanks to J. Gomez for the rest of this rehash.]
The Spurs seemed unable to contain the Warriors' three point barrage once again. This time it was Klay Thompson who did most of the damage in the first half, propelling the Warriors to an early lead. Thompson and Curry combined for 42 first half points, only one less that the Spurs' total. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were aggressive and on point for the Spurs but they just couldn't match the young Golden State stars and the bench provided little help. To beat the Warriors you have to match their shooting.
The second half saw the Spurs go small and it paid off. Curry and Thompson combined for just 5-19 from the field and, overall, the defense was better. But after a prolific third quarter the Spurs couldn't get enough buckets to make up the difference. As great as Kawhi Leonard was in other aspects of the game, his three-point shooting hurt the team this time around and with Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner playing limutes, the Spurs needed a forward to hit the long ball.
Ultimately, the Spurs were great on defense in the second half but bad on offense after struggling in the opposite areas in the first half. At this level they can't afford to play well on only one side of the ball.
Thompson scored 29 first half points and set the tone for a Warriors team that didn't get Video Game Mode Steph Curry on this one. Thompson did a good job on defense when he was on Parker and finished with 34 points on eight of nine from beyond the arc and 14 boards, all career highs.
Mychal's kid would be the best shooter in almost every NBA team but since he shares the back court with Curry he sometimes gets overlooked. But he has a very quick release and can put the ball on the floor and cut off the ball as well, as the Spurs found out.
The Spurs will need to figure out how to stop Thompson more than they need to figure out how to stop Curry and so far they haven't. Their chances in this series will hinge on whether or not Pop can find a way to neutralize the Warriors' shooting guard.
Neal played the fifth most minutes for the Spurs and I can't understand why. Even in the Spurs' third quarter run he was awful, going 1-5 from the field and playing questionable defense.
I'm usually hard on Neal but I like him and think he has a role on this team and in this league. But in games like these, when his shot is off and the other team has good offensive guards who also happen to have the athletic edge on The Nail, I don't see what he brings to the table.
I will also take this chance to mention that if you need evidence that single game plus/minus is meaningless you should look no further than to Neal's stat line. Neal was a team best +7 but he didn't make any meaningful contributions.
By The Numbers
- 29 - First half points by Klay Thompson. The leading scorer for the Spurs was Tim Duncan and he scored 23 in the whole game.
- 24 - That was the Spurs' three point percentage on 23 attempts. The Warriors shot the three ball at a 48% rate on 21 shots from beyond the arc. For the Spurs to take one or both games in the Bay Area, those numbers have to be closer.
- 7:43 - That's how long Boris Diaw was out there playing. After playing a huge part on the Spurs' comeback on Monday, Diaw got very little playing time and only saw garbage time minutes in the second half.
- 14 - The Spurs logged only 14 assists on 35 made baskets. That illustrates how stagnant the offense was at times. There was no ball or player movement and the screens were awful.
- 40 - The Spurs got 40 points in the paint to the Warriors' 32. They also got the edge on fast break points (19 to 10) and second chance points (20 to 12) and still lost. That's what happens when you miss from outside.
- 46.2 - That the percentage the Warriors shot at the rim. That's well below their season and playoff average and slightly lower than the Spurs' (50%). Unsurprisingly, the Warriors won because they can hit jumpers.
- 30 - That's how many consecutive games the Warriors had lost in San Antonio. But they won one when it counts.
Bird is the Word
Pop pregame: "Any other questions?" Some guy I don't know: "Have you seen any sunglasses? I seem to have lost mine." True (awesome) story.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) 9 de mayo de 2013
Essentially, both coaches were full of malarkey when naming their starting units. Malarkey, I tell you!— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) 9 de mayo de 2013
Thompson and Curry have combined for 30. Spurs have scored 31.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) 9 de mayo de 2013
Are we dead yet? Are we dead yet? Are we dead yet? (Repeat until spontaneously combust)— Mark V (@sbdavis_PtR) 9 de mayo de 2013
We need a name other than "heat check" for crazy Curry/Klay threes during a good streak. "Heat verification"? "Hotness confirmation"?— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) 9 de mayo de 2013
It shocks me when an open three doesn't fall for Golden State.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) 9 de mayo de 2013
Warriors are in trouble now. Spurs game ops just handed out squiggly balloons behind their basket.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) 9 de mayo de 2013
SO. MANY. MISSED. SHOTS. GOOD. GRIEF.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) 9 de mayo de 2013
Already happy with this Warriors season. It's now just waiting for the coins to stop spilling from the slot machine.— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) 9 de mayo de 2013
McGrady was pathetic tonight.— Gregory Popovich (@FakeCoachPop) 9 de mayo de 2013
Going into next game, the Spurs need to...
Figure out a way to make the Warriors adjust to them and not the other way around. If that means going small, switching everything on defense and running, then do that. If it means starting Splitter next to Duncan and funneling opposing guards towards the paint while running the offense from the post, fine. The Spurs need to set the tone early and finding a lineup that can control the Warriors' early offensive explosions and force them to change is paramount. I still think the Spurs are the better team and can leave the Bay Area with at least a win. They just need to adapt their game plan and start hitting open shots.