“We gotta be pros. We can’t be thinking of who’s not playing. We have to take it as another game . . . Because we need it.”
That was Manu Ginobili on Saturday night when asked about the upcoming tilt versus the Warriors, who head into the AT&T Center sans three All-Stars and a pair of role players. For the Spurs, who have improved their stance in the playoff standings over the last week, it’s another in a long stretch of must-wins. You can expect them to bring their typical “appropriate fear” against the defending champs on Monday night — just don’t think that’ll come with much leniency:
“Nobody does when we have injuries, so we gotta try and play our best game.”
It’s not the kind of battle many envisioned a few weeks back — or that ESPN pictured when putting it on its schedule — but the reversal of fortunes is certainly something Spurs fans will take with the team looking to continue its push into the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs (40-30) vs. Golden State Warriors (53-17)
March 17, 2018 | 8:30 pm CDT
Watch: KENS, ESPN; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (quad)
Warriors injuries: Kevin Durant (rib), Stephen Curry (ankle), Klay Thompson (thumb), Omri Cassipi (ankle), Patrick McCaw (wrist)
So, who’s playing for Golden State?
On Saturday Steve Kerr turned to a backcourt of Nick Young and Quinn Cook, who played 42 and 40 minutes respectively in a win over the Suns. At this point, Young is a known commodity among most NBA fans — an unabashed gunner who’s never seen a shot he doesn’t like.
Cook, an undrafted second-year point guard on a two-way contract, may be lesser-known, but he did have a career-high 28 points in the win over Phoenix. The Spurs defense should do a better job of containing him, but should certainly take his recent explosion as a cautionary tale of what he’s capable of.
More of the same with lineups, rotations?
Pop has run with a starting five of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and LaMarcus Aldridge over the last three games, all wins. He’s recently asserted that lineups are still a fluid thing, even this late in the year, but it’s hard to imagine him moving away from it tonight. That unit has a net rating of +16.6 in 48 minutes of playing together over that span. Also promising: the group Pop has transitioned to at the end of the first quarter — the three future Hall of Famers, plus Bryn Forbes and Rudy Gay — has a net rating of +51.2 in 19 minutes together in those three games.
Start strong, finish healthy
The former is a polite request, the latter a desperate plea.
Vegas line: Spurs by 6.5.
Game prediction: Spurs by 10.
For the Warriors fans’ perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed