I attended my second Spurs game in 24 hours last night and once again left the building feeling mirthful, despite the heavy ticket prices and disappointing nachos. Here are some belated thoughts.
1. That might be the best consecutive defensive performance by the Spurs all season in any two-game stretch. Holding a Kings team with some decent offensive talent under 80 on the road is one thing but then to follow it up with allowing just 90 --well really 84 when the issue was decided-- the next night without Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili is really impressive. They completely snuffed out "The Splash Brothers," kept David Lee, who usually poses match-up problems against the Spurs in check and never let the Warriors go off for any sustained runs. The size and length of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard gives those guys a lot of problems and I thought the Spurs did a great job on the boards considering that Duncan was out and that the Warriors' three-point shooting lends itself to a lot of long, funky boards.
2. Did you notice the Warriors only launched 15 threes all game? Forget the percentage, it's obviously terrific for the Spurs that they only converted at 20 percent, but it's more significant that the defense was alert and aggressive enough to run them off of so many looks. That was the key to the whole game.
3. Considering the opponent and the circumstances, that might have been the best game of Tiago Splitter's career. 13 defensive boards, a block, a number of other shot contests and some real patience and touch in the low post against one of the best defensive bigs in the league in Andrew Bogut. Splitter also had three assists and did his part on making life difficult for Bogut even after he came up with offensive boards.
4. I think the Warriors are the one team where playing Splitter and small-ball is a better alternative than Duncan, actually. First of all, defensively playing small against them makes sense because they like to spread the floor with shooters and Bogut isn't much of a threat at all. Offensively, the Spurs can get mismatches with the bulky Diaw posting up or running either end of the pick-and-pop against Lee or by posting up Leonard against smaller guys since Andre Iguodala will be guarding Parker or Ginobili, in all likelihood. More importantly, Bogut defends the paint and post-ups very well, but is more apt to ignore Splitter on the screen-and-roll. The only area where Duncan is missed against the Warriors at all really is on the boards.
5. That game would've been a blowout early if Diaw could throw it into the ocean. They weren't guarding him.
6. Some questionable shot selection from Patty Mills, but it was definitely one of his better defensive games of the season. He really dug in and was tenacious. It helped him, of course, that the Warriors bench is lacking anyone who reminds you of Reggie Jackson, but he gave Stephen Curry problems too.
7. Jeff Ayres had a couple of hustle plays with a momentum-changing block on Curry and a nice offensive board, but once they start passing him the ball on offense, I check out. That's just never, ever a good idea. There was a stretch there early in the fourth where Pop was all but telegraphing, "We're gonna have Mills dribble around and take a contested fadeaway here because we have no other options."
8. Secret bonus goody from Pop in the game: He played Parker but didn't go crazy, giving him just 27 minutes on a SEGABABA. He was only going to go so far going for the win.
9. Belinelli has some of the least consistent footwork for any three-point shooter I've ever seen. Sometimes they're pinched together, sometimes they're splayed wide apart, sometimes he leans one way or the other. There's never any rhyme or reason for any of it, or any correlation for the ball going in or not. His scoring burst in the third quarter really stabilized the club while nobody else was doing much of anything.
10. I can see why a guy like Austin Daye would be a tease for teams. He's got length, shooting ability, even some skill. I can see Pop activating him over Ayres deep in the playoffs against OKC, in a "oh, what the hell?" move.
And now five Warriors thoughts:
1. I disagree with Haralabos Voulgaris' contention that the Warriors should be playing a running-and-gunning style and that Mark Jackson is screwing them up playing a grind-it-out style. The only players on the roster with an offensive bent are Curry, Lee and Klay Thompson. Everybody else is a much better defender than scorer, including their entire bench. This isn't exactly Houston or Portland we're dealing with.
2. I mean, look at how inept Bogut is. He had six offensive boards and finished with just one bucket and no free throw attempts. That's impossible. There are serious limitations as to what you can do with someone like that. Draymond Green is a useful player, but very limited offensively in that he can't dribble, shoot or pass. (I think he's less-skilled than Danny Green, honestly.) Iguodala is already their glue guy but you can't have too many guys like that or the offense just dies. I think playing fast would help their starters, and only their starters, but it would ruin their biggest strength which is half-court defense to play an up-and-down game. It wouldn't help their bench at all and wind up just hurting their overall defense. Their backup guards are awful.
3. The team's fatal flaw is that Curry is a shooting guard in a point guard's body. He has a pretty good handle and can run a pick-and-roll and his vision is okay, but he doesn't have all the instincts for the position, he's not at all a good finisher and he constantly let's himself get trapped and baited into bad turnovers. Ideally he needs to be playing with someone like Shaun Livingston, George Hill, Goran Dragic or even Ricky Rubio, taller point guards who can run the offense, guard opposing twos and let Curry just shoot. Instead he's forced into the role of having to play the point and create everything because of the roster around him and because you can't hide him on defense. The Warriors tried playing him off-the-ball with Steve Blake running point some, but you need a better defender there and can't really move up Thompson to small forward because a guy like Leonard will just throw him away in the post like a gnat.
4. Speaking of Thompson, I got a kick out of Warriors play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald gushing over how well he was playing against the Spurs. He scored 16 points on 16 shots and had as many turnovers as assists, and all that with Leonard guarding him maybe 1/3 of the time. It was usually Parker and maybe Green a few possessions. (Pop actually put Leonard on Curry some late in the game to really ruin him.) If Thompson isn't outscoring Leonard in games, the Warriors have no chance against the Spurs.
In Fitzgerald's defense it was Thompson's best outing vs. the Spurs since Game 2 of their second round series last year.
5. Whatever has happened to Harrison Barnes? He is god awful. He's very fortunate that A) Iguodala has been hurt, that B) Jackson ignores all his stat guys and goes by "feel," (we could have a Lionel Hollins situation with the Grizzlies all over again) because for quite a few progressive teams he wouldn't be even in the rotation anymore. The Warriors should really play just eight guys in the playoffs, with Blake, Green and Jermaine O'Neal off the bench. Maybe give Barnes a few spot minutes here or there to see if he's feeling it, but do not count on him at all.