One of the fundamental fantasies we embrace as sports fans is that anything can technically happen until the final horn sounds. Players can get hot and ride a wave of untapped self-belief to greatness; coaches can find lightning in a bottle with hidden tactical switches that shift the tide; sheer dumb luck can strike in ways good and bad, and Kawhi Leonard can return to his team after months of rehab and help turn a series around.
At least one of those can be put to rest heading into Game 2 of the Spurs’ first-round series versus the Warriors, thanks to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania that stated that San Antonio’s hamstrung superstar is expected to remain in New York and continue treatment on his quad. The challenge for the Spurs and fans alike: fending off those other reality checks for (at least) one more day.
It’s no secret that the two teams meeting tonight are not evenly matched, even with one of the Warriors’ four All-Stars on the sidelines. Think about how many transcendent talents each team can count on — the elite, even with a hand in their face, shooting of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant; LaMarcus Aldridge’s post game; Draymond Green’s defensive ubiquity; even the get-up-and-get-it length of JaVale McGee — and tally them up for Team A and Team B. The list should tilt heavily to one side, or you’re doing it wrong.
That’s not to say a win isn’t possible — there is a game script in which the Spurs eke out a win — it’s just buried under a hundred more where they’re once again overwhelmed on both ends of the floor. The torturous, rose-tinted fun for us will be tuning in to find out.
San Antonio Spurs (7) @ Golden State Warriors (2)
April 16, 2018 | 9:30 PM CT
Watch: TNT, FSSW | Listen: WOAI
Warriors lead series 1-0
Spurs Injuries: Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management), Joffrey Lauvergne (personal)
Warriors Injuries: Stephen Curry (MCL sprain), Patrick McCaw (back)
Establishing a presence inside
It’s hard to imagine any strong Spurs performance happening without them winning the battle in the paint. On Saturday that didn’t happen, as JaVale McGee’s length pushed LaMarcus Aldridge into the perimeter and sent away a number of attempts close to the basket.
Here’s the team’s overall shot chart from Game 1, showing not only a low percentage but a low volume of looks at the rim.
That has to improve. Aldridge will obviously need to be better, but the team as a whole can benefit from turning quality ball movement into opportunistic drives that set up open looks not only from deep but in the paint, as well.
Keep Rudy Gay engaged
Rudy Gay is one of the few other players who can get inside, make things happen, and create his own looks. His 15 points paced the Spurs in Game 1, despite his settling for jump shots most of the time. He’ll need to look for his own shot again tonight, and it’d be good if those included more looks around the rim to put some stress on the Warriors D.
Keep contesting shots, hope you get lucky
The Spurs contested 69 of the Warriors’ 81 field-goal attempts in Game 1. The problem is, few are as adept to ignoring a hand in the face like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, and the two combined for 20-of-30 shooting from the field. San Antonio has to hope that a similar effort can yield a different result in Game 2.
Vegas odds: Warriors by 9.5.
Game Prediction: Warriors by 12.
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.