Michael Erler: They would have to have a significant edge in points in the paint, free throws, and fast break points, while hoping the Warriors shoot 3s a lot worse than usual.
Bruno Passos: I don't think it would take any outrageous set of circumstances, but a strong game from the Spurs bench and a slow night for Curry and/or Thompson will always help. Controlling the boards and good transition D will also keep the Warriors from capitalizing off a more chaotic pace.
Jesus Gomez: They would need to control the pace at which the game is played. The Warriors' offense is deadly in the half court but when they really get going is when they can run. Limit fast break points, pick Curry up early to avoid those threes early in the shot clock and make them execute against a terrific defense. If the Spurs can do that, they have a great chance to win.
Chris Itz: I'm not sure that something has to happen for the Spurs to win. Even with Duncan sitting, they're a phenomenal basketball team. I guess I think something has to not happen -- the Spurs can't dig themselves into a 15-point hole in the first quarter.
J.R. Wilco: The Spurs' excellent transition defense must keep this a half court game. Stephen Curry must have a defender on him as soon as he's 40 feet from the basket. And LaMarcus Aldridge must make all the right decisions while anchoring the defense.
2 - Star power, supporting cast, coaching: who has the edge in each category?
Erler: Star power goes to the Warriors currently because Curry could be one of the all-time greats, a truly transcendent player, and you have to rate him slightly higher than Leonard, while Green is slightly higher than Aldridge. In the big-picture sense it's the Spurs, who have five Hall-of-Famers to the Warriors maybe three.
Supporting cast wise it's the Spurs by some margin. I would take Duncan and Green as the 4th/5th starters over Bogut and Barnes, and while Ginobili/Mills and Iguodala/Livingston are a wash, San Antonio is a galaxy better 8-15 than the Dubs.
Coaching is probably even. I have no idea how to even measure that. Pop still does things that make me scratch my head at times, both in the micro and macro sense.
Passos: Star power: Golden State's backcourt, for their ability to swing a game with the flick of a few wrists.
Supporting cast: San Antonio at every position except small forward.
Coaching: Give me the Spurs in a series, but in a one-off regular season game it might be more negligible. I don't see Pop as singularly invested in winning tonight, which might mean placing a greater emphasis on experimentation.
Gomez: Star power: The Warriors. If Curry can continue to play at this level for a few more seasons, he will enter the All-Time great discussion because of the way he has changed the game.
Supporting cast: Spurs. Mills, Ginobili, West and Diaw could start on a few teams and they would be the first sub in the vast majority of rosters. Duncan and Parker are productive and play both ends. Danny Green is the only one struggling but he still finds ways to contribute.
Coaching: Spurs. Extraneous G has once again changed the way the team plays, to great results. Kerr is fantastic but I have to give Pop the edge here.
Itz: The kids love watching Steph can threes.
Kawhi Leonard's supporting cast includes four hall-of-famers and a Red Mamba...it's not close.
Popovich has won 1574% more games than Kerr, but in-game I don't think coaching matters for either of these teams very much. The Spurs do come out of halftimes as ruthless killers, though - over their last 10 games, the Spurs have a net-rating of 27.8 in the third quarter (18.4 overall), so maybe the coaches do something in the locker room.
Wilco: Star power goes to the Warriors: Curry is the biggest draw in the league right now for a reason. Supporting cast goes to the Spurs: no one has a bench like San Antonio's. Coaching goes to the Spurs: as long as Pop doesn't give himself the night off too.
3 - Which matchup are you the most excited about?
Erler: Anyone on Draymond Green. The Spurs will try lots of different guys there, I think, from Duncan to Aldridge to Diaw, and don't be surprised if you see Leonard on him at times to make it easier to switch on to Curry.
Passos: Tactically I'm excited to see how the Spurs (attempt to) limit Draymond, and whether or not that includes Timmy on the floor for long stretches of time. Visually it'd have to be the few moments Kawhi guards Steph.
P.S.: Well, some of my answer still stands.
Gomez: Green vs. Diaw! We could get a chance to see two of the most versatile power forward in years battle. It will be glorious. Danny Green on Stephen Curry could also be interesting. I have a feeling Pop will put Leonard on Thompson leaving Green to handle Steph. If he can, that would be a huge plus for the Spurs thinking about a potential playoffs matchup.
Itz: Draymond Green and David West. Papa don't take no mess.
Wilco: The Spurs' defense against the Warriors pick and roll. Gotta stop that 4-on-3 situation that Golden State puts so many teams in.
4 - Which of the two franchises will have the most success in the next five years?
Erler: Warriors. Even in their diminished state Duncan and Ginobili still give the Spurs A LOT. And Parker, who's having a nice bounce-back season, won't be able to keep it up too much longer either and we're already catching Aldridge at the tail end of his prime. Diaw is what, 33? 34? Leonard is fantastic, but he won't have much around him unless R.C. Buford continues to be a warlock.
Passos: Golden State -- not to say that the Spurs haven't improved their own outlook over the past 7 or 8 months, but the age of the Warriors' core and how well they fit together means they should be scary for a while.
Gomez: The Warriors have a small edge. Their supporting cast is old but the stars are young. Curry will be 28 years old when this season ends but his game should age well. The Spurs would need to land another good, in his prime free agent next offseason to even things out.
Itz: You guys are crazy, I'm not going to bet against the gold standard. The Spurs have R.C., Pop and Kawhi locked up. Kawhi is still three years short of 27, which suggests, and confirms what our eyes see happening every night, that he has years of development and refinement in front of him. Is Barnes going to get a max offer-sheet? Will the Warriors match it? Will Steph Curry give the Warriors a discount to give them more flexibility the way that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have over the years?
Wilco: As long as Pop stays in town, I'll put the Spurs up against anyone. And he's said that he'll coach through Aldridge's first contract, which is five years. With Buford signing talent, and Pop coaching nobodys into household names, I'm optimistic about the future.
5 - What's your prediction for Monday's game?
Erler: Warriors 105-96. Too many things going against the Spurs in this one. They've won 13 in a row, which makes Pop uncomfortable. There's nothing he finds more ominous than everyone saying he's got the best team in freaking January. He likes having things to work on to get better at and to build toward April. A loss to the Dubs would get the team to re-focus and lock in. They've been sloppy of late, good in spurts, but apathetic for long stretches too. When's the last time they played a solid 48 minute game? It's been a while. I'm not saying Pop will "tank" the game, because I think as far as personnel he'll still play everyone, but I doubt he'll throw the kitchen sink at the Warriors and I think tactically he'll keep a lot of things in his back pocket. He'll make his guys prove to him how good they are by trying to win in spite of him. I don't think he's going to help them out, by design. Oh, also Green is going to be hyped up out of his mind because of the All-Star thing.
P.S.: Spurs announce Duncan is out because of a sore knee. Sure, Pop. Sure.
Passos: In my best, completely unbiased Superfans voice: Da Spurs (in a close one).
Gomez: I think even without Duncan the Spurs can still win it. I'm going with San Antonio 105, Golden State 95.
Itz: We won't see Kawhi guard Curry, Pop will remain calm, and Draymond get's a T. Spurs 108, Warriors 97
Wilco: These two historic teams make history by playing to the the first tie in NBA history. After 15 overtime periods, Commissioner Silver calls the contest and announces that the game on 3/19 will be worth two games. Riots break out all over North America and the Earth's axis loses a half a degree of its tilt.