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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors

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They're on pace for the most wins in a season. Their record against 'contenders' remains perfect. Their MVP is banking in corner threes. They have a top-five defensive rating to pair with their world-destroying offense. Oh, and they killed the Spurs by 30 in their only meeting this year. And yet, I feel pretty good about tonight's game -- and here's why you should, too!

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
March 19, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: ABC Radio: WOAI 1200AM

The first meeting between the Spurs and Warriors failed to live up to its billing as a clash of historically great teams. Playing without Tim Duncan, the Spurs came into Oracle Arena noticeably flatfooted, failing to establish a rhythm offensively and giving up a number of unforced turnovers (26 total), leading to an early Warriors lead that only ballooned as the game went on. Pair those factors with one of LaMarcus Aldridge's worst games as a Spur and a terrific shooting night from Golden State and you have some ripe conditions for a historically great letdown.

There are reasons to think tonight's matchup in San Antonio will be very different, beginning with the presence of Old Man Riverwalk, who should steady the defense both around the rim and against the Warriors' motion-heavy, pick-and-roll attack.

This time around it'll be Golden State that's a bit thinner in the frontcourt, with Festus Ezeli (knee) and Andre Iguodala (ankle) both out. Ezeli's minutes will likely go to Anderson Varejao, who brings his trademark energy and rebounding but still seems to be finding his bearings within the Warriors defense. They don't get the same elite level of defense from Andrew Bogut (the Mavs went at him often in the pick and roll last night), but he'll still be a necessary foil against Duncan. (update: Bogut's doubtful to play after spraining his toe against Dallas)

The bigger absence for them is their Iguodala, who's out with an ankle injury sustained against Portland. The Finals MVP's perimeter defense and playmaking for the second unit can't be replaced by any one bench player, and there's the added loss of Steve Kerr not being able to roll out his lineup of death. It's not a group we saw in January (and we might not see it at all during the season for all we know), but it is one less dimension to have to worry about going into the game.

With Bogut and Iguodala out, this isn't a team that can overwhelm teams on the defensive end, and they've given up over 110 points to the Pelicans, Lakers and Magic as of late (the latter two with Iggy in the lineup). With a bit of patience and by taking care of the ball, the Spurs should be able to get plenty of looks tonight.

The Warriors will be coming into the AT&T Center following a hard-fought win in Dallas last night. The Mavs made it a point to push the pace and out-small-ball GS, with the 130-112 final somewhat belying what was a closer game until the final minutes, and we could see some of the effect of that game carry over to tonight.

More than just the potential chinks in Golden State's armor is the new sheen to San Antonio's. Aldridge has come on very well since he left social media behind, showcasing a new level of comfort and aggressiveness within the Spurs offense. This article from Project Spurs delineates the different 'stages' of play we've seen from him as he's grown accustomed to playing both with and without Tim. His play will inevitably be under heavy scrutiny again tonight, and I'll look for how the Spurs find him on the block and in good scoring positions against Draymond Green's staunch D.

Tony Parker and Danny Green combined for eight points against the Warriors last time out, with Parker failing to gain any traction with his penetration and Green a non-factor. They don't need to outscore the Warriors' All-Star backcourt, but they need to keep the pressure on Golden State's defense to open the game for everyone else. Parker looked spry in the win against Portland, and hopefully he'll bring more of the same tonight.

The more support Kawhi gets on the wings the better, but he should be fine either way. He'll face some combination of Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson tonight, but neither will be able to slow him down -- not when he's consistently capable of creating offense like this (thanks, Chris):

Stephen Curry and Thompson will naturally be a threat from 30 feet in, and they'll have Green looking to break the defense down at every opportunity and find them. But if San Antonio can minimize those breakdowns and if enough of those pesky 50-50 balls refrain from bouncing serendipitously into either of their hands while they're spotting up, the Spurs defense should be able to hold up.

Making the difference should be the Spurs bench, which'll count on David West's resurgent play and its outside shooting against the Warriors' subs. Kerr had to play his big three through the fourth quarter last night, which could mean more of a reliance on Leandro BarbosaBrandon Rush and James Michael McAdoo tonight. Edge: Spurs.

The Spurs have looked great in the first four games of their homestand and have a chance to extend their record at the T to 35-0 with a win. My expectations are usually tempered before games, and there's all the more reason to do so against these guys. But the Spurs are coming together now, the Warriors will be a little weary, and I think SA does enough things well to give Golden State its seventh loss of the season.

And then we get to do this (at least) two more times!

Matchup to watch: An obvious one, but I'm going with San Antonio against the Warriors' perimeter attack. The Spurs will usually overplay shooters on most off-ball screens. It's a gambit Pop's willing to make against perimeter-oriented teams, but Golden State's guys were able to counter and exploit it with ease in their last meeting with some stellar back-cuts (and lest we forget Curry's vicious V-cut against Kawhi on this play). We'll see if Pop's adds any counter-counter measures of his own, or whether anything else changes in how the Spurs play the Warriors shooters around the arc.

San Antonio Spurs: 58-10

Golden State Warriors: 61-6

March 19, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:30 pm, CDT

TV: ABC

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Stephen Curry

Danny Green

SG

Klay Thompson

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Harrison Barnes

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Draymond Green

Tim Duncan

C

Andrew Bogut**


Game prediction: Spurs by 10.

For the Warriors fans' perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.