When a man falls behind in watching NBA basketball games, that man usually puts aside his craving for a helping of Netflix and works through the games he missed. In my case, I sat and watched close to 12 Spurs' games over a course of three days. Watching games at that pace becomes exhausting. The games begin to melt together like the lyrics to an overplayed Bruno Mars' song. You begin to become accustomed to incredible passing and open shots.
Watching the San Antonio Spurs play the Golden State Warriors was a game that didn't feature classic Spurs' passing and uncontested three point shots.
It isn't often that a defense forces the Spurs to get away from the way they play offense. The Spurs typically expose weaknesses in top defenses. (Looking at you 2014 NBA Finals). The Warriors flipped the script.
Coming into the game, everyone knew that the likelihood of a Spurs' win would be slim. This is the second game of a road back-to-back playing two of the NBA's best teams. At the beginning of the game, it wasn't all bad. The Spurs got the open looks that they wanted. Kawhi Leonard started 4-4 from the field, and Aron Baynes got himself going. The team was clicking, garnering 17 of the team's 25 assists in the first half.
It was the last two minutes of the second quarter where the Warriors started to force the Spurs out of their way of play.
The Warriors began to focus on stopping the movement of the player off the ball. In the play above, Marco Belinelli looks to cut through the paint, but it clogged with defenders. Tim Duncan tries to move down near the basket for a backdoor pass, but that fails as well. Boris is then forced to throw a risky cross-court pass to Tony Parker.
If you follow the movement of any of the Warriors' defenders on that play, you can see why this look gave the Spurs so much trouble. Steph Curry started the play up at the top of the key when Tony Parker brought the ball up, followed TP into the corner, helped take away the backdoor pass to Duncan and then read the pass from Boris to get the steal.
In an age where spreading the floor has become so prominent, it is intriguing to watch how the Warriors are able to shrink the floor on defense. The Spurs are the masters of spreading the floor. They are the team that created this idea of extra passing and maximum spacing. If there is a team to test your defense against, it is the Spurs. But as you can see here, they do a great job of shrinking the floor on this play.
They cut off the top of the floor as soon as Tony Parker gives the ball to Aron Baynes. That leaves Danny Green as the only other option for a pass, but Klay Thompson is ready to intercept that pass.
That sequence reminds me of a swarm press play, but only with two defenders. Creative looks like these allow the Warriors defense to utilize their best weapon- the transition offense.
Every time San Antonio would turn the ball over or they were too lazy getting back up the court, it created an opportunity for the Warriors to push the pace and get wide open three point shots, or drive towards the basket uncontested. If there is something that the Thunder proved in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, it is that playing fast and controlling the pace is how you beat the Spurs in the playoffs.
The way the Warriors play translates into winning playoff basketball. They have the superstar, they have the sidekick to back him up and they have the coach to make a serious run in the playoffs. The Warriors made me a believer on Friday night.