The new season begins now, and this is the Spurs chance to start over again and put a rough regular season behind them. This may be a re-match of last season’s Western Conference Finals, but it couldn’t be further from a similar situation (besides no Kawhi Leonard), and not just because this a 2 vs. 7 first round match-up instead of 1 vs. 2. Both teams are coming off what can be considered sub-par regular seasons, largely thanks to injuries.
San Antonio Spurs (7) @ Golden State Warriors (2)
April 14, 2018 | 2:00 PM CT
Watch: ABC | Listen: WOAI
Series: tied 0-0
Spurs Injuries: Kawhi Leonard (return form injury management)
Warriors Injuries: Stephen Curry (MCL sprain), Patrick McCaw (back), Andre Iguodala (knee - expected to play)
A somewhat new situation for both teams
With Leonard missing all but nine games and his main back-up, Rudy Gay, missing 25 games, the Spurs put out their lowest win total (47) since 1997 (excluding the 1999 lockout shortened season, during which they still won at a rate equivalent to 60 wins and a championship). But how many teams can say they still made the playoffs during their worst season in 21 years? There’s a silver lining to everything.
On the Warriors end, after averaging 69 wins over the last three seasons, Golden State’s Big 4 missed a combined 66 games, including 31 (and counting) from Curry. Now both teams find themselves in relatively unfamiliar territory, although it’s safe to assume the Warriors can flip the switch at any time in the playoffs, especially with Curry expected to return for the second round. The Spurs will have to punch early if they want a chance at the upset.
LMA’s time to shine
Last season was a tough one for LaMarcus Aldridge. He wasn’t himself while dealing with heart and knee issues, and it was only compounded by his discomfort in the Spurs system. It all culminated in an underwhelming postseason showing — which was magnified even more once Leonard went down for good against the Warriors — and him asking for a trade last summer. As the story goes, he and Gregg Popovich worked things out, and Aldridge signed an extension before returning to the Spurs and having an All-NBA season.
It’s a good thing he did, because without him the Spurs’ season would most likely be over by now and their playoff streak ended. He has more than made up for last season’s deficiencies just by getting them to this postseason, but the Spurs are going to need him to continue to bring his A-game (no pun intended) if they’re going to stand any chance against the defending champs, Curry or not.
It’s now or never on the road
Not to keep beating a dead horse, but once again the Spurs absolutely have to figure things out on the road. They haven’t won away from the AT&T Center since February 25, and without home court they certainly won’t be going anywhere beyond this round without at least one victory at Oracle Arena. The Spurs’ last game in Golden State was on March 8, and while it was a loss it was one of many in which the Spurs held a late lead, only to blow it in the end. Simply closing games strong will fix a lot (but not all) of their road woes.
The Spurs have shown they can hang with the Warriors and present a decent match-up; now they just need to prove they can put their advantages to use, particularly on the road. If not, it will be a short postseason for the Silver and Black.
Vegas odds: Warriors by 8
Game Prediction: Spurs by 1
For the Warriors fans’ perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.