Golden State simply leveraged every advantage they had on paper. The Spurs lack shooting, so the Warriors doubled LaMarcus Aldridge aggressively, forcing him into a 14-point outing, without having to pay for it. Knowing the Spurs would switch virtually everything, they looked for Durant to get a guard on him so he could attack or pass if San Antonio doubled. He had 16 points and five assists in the first half alone. Seemingly every breakdown in the perimeter defense resulted in a JaVale McGee bucket near the rim or an open jumper for Klay Thompson. Every time San Antonio attempted to attack the paint, meanwhile, the Warriors length proved too disruptive.
Some uncharacteristically hot shooting from outside kept the Spurs in it early, but it was clear after two quarters that they simply didn’t have the firepower or the defensive versatility to mount a comeback. Not on Saturday, anyway. The Warriors, already the more talented team, also seemed better prepared. Steve Kerr started Andre Iguodala on a point guard-less unit, accentuating an already significant advantage in size and athleticism. Pop made some interesting adjustments — less Kyle Anderson and more Rudy Gay, some Davis Bertans — but it wasn’t enough to regain the edge. To make matters worse, the execution left a lot to be desired, as the Spurs turned it over too much early and lacked a flow to their switching.
Not everything was bad, of course. Rudy Gay continued his stretch of great play in his first playoff game since 2012, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals off the bench. Manu Ginobili had some nice moments on both ends, canning his two three-pointers and getting three steals. Danny Green did a decent job on Kevin Durant when the two were matched up. The Spurs actually hit some threes on the road and their transition defense was solid. They can build on those areas and try to address their weaknesses before Game 2 on Monday.
Some of the adjustments Pop made in this game should also help in the next matchup. Gay started the second half in Anderson’s place. That should remain on the table for Game 2. Generally playing Gay more sounds like a good idea. Parker got a chance to check if he was hot, and when there was conclusive evidence he wasn’t (1-for-8 for the night), Pop gave him a short leash. That also seems wise. Perhaps more importantly, the Spurs won’t be caught off guard next time. They now know Iguodala and McGee are likely starters and that Kerr will punish three guard lineups by going big with Durant at small forward. San Antonio’s roster might be too limited to allow for counters to everything the Warriors can throw at them, but the coaching staff will surely find ways to address the bigger issues going forward.
Game 1 is in the past now. The Spurs still have a chance to steal the next one in Oakland and make it a competitive series. Nothing that happened on Saturday suggests their chances of doing so are good, but stranger things have happened.
- First, let’s address the cornrowed elephant in the room: Kawhi Leonard was not with the Spurs in Oakland. He’s likely in New York, still rehabbing. Still, it’s a bad look. Worse yet, it suggests the rift he reportedly has with the front office might also extend to his teammates, since he chose not to travel to support them. It seems we might be headed towards an eventful summer on that front.
- Pop was in a grumpy but playful mood after the game. When asked about his opinion on how Danny Green guarded Kevin Durant, he said “it didn’t go very well. So we’ll have Danny grow five inches by Monday night, tell him to jump higher and move quicker. And we’ll tell Kevin, ‘don’t be so good’.” Joke aside, Green did fine on Durant, who did a lot of his damage after switches. But hey, if Green can get taller by Game 2, I’m all for it.
- Point guard play on offense has been an issue for a while, and that didn’t change on Saturday. Those hoping Playoff Tony was going to show up have to be disappointed. Parker was completely ineffective, missing seven of his eight shots. The Warriors didn’t guard him off the ball. Mills, who starts at shooting guard but handles the ball, was guarded tightly and managed to only get off five shots. Murray had some promising moments but was saddled with foul trouble on some questionable calls just as he was looking his best. At least two of those three guys have to be better on Monday.
- This series might not be for Slowmo. The Warriors don’t guard him. If Anderson starts next to another non-shooter like Murray, that kills the spacing. I’m tempted to say Gay should probably start and Bertans should steal some of Kyle’s minutes. Pop will probably give him a chance to redeem himself and he’s proved me wrong in the past, but it’s hard to see Slowmo having a positive impact against the Warriors.
- Maybe it was because Anderson and Murray didn’t play much, maybe because McGee kept Aldridge away from the restricted area or because they were focusing more on transition defense. But the Spurs only got three offensive rebounds despite missing 48 shots. That’s not enough. The Warriors struggle on the glass. The Spurs need to get those second chances.
On to the next one. Game 2 will tip off Monday, 9:30 p.m. CST at Oracle Arena.
For the Warriors’ perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.