If one thing was blatantly obvious from the beginning of Game 1, it was that the San Antonio Spurs preferred starting line-up does not possess enough offensive fire power to keep up with the Golden State Warriors. Enter Rudy Gay, who got the start in place of Kyle Anderson and accomplished the goal of getting more offense for the starters while keeping the double-teams off LaMarcus Aldridge. But would it be enough?
The Spurs — looking less like a deer-in-headlights and more like a playoff team — came out much more aggressive than two nights ago and unafraid to drive and attack the rim. Aldridge hit his first shot, giving the Spurs their first lead of the series, but Andre Iguodala hit three threes to spot the Warriors an early 15-8 lead. However, unlike Game 1, the Spurs didn’t fold, but instead responded with a 10-2 run and held a 25-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
An angry Steve Kerr called a timeout less than a minute into the second quarter after an open Tony Parker jumper, but one thing about the Warriors is they will come back at you and make you pay for your mistakes. With 3:40 left in the half the Spurs had a chance for a six-point lead, but a Gay basket was negated by an Aldridge offensive goal-tend, and on the ensuing play what should have been a clean steal by Manu Ginobili was called shooting foul, resulting in two free throws for Kevin Durant and a four-point swing.
Just a few minutes later, a missed lay-up by Patty Mills resulted in a transition corner three for Klay Thompson, forcing a five-point swing and a Gregg Popovich timeout. These are little things that just can’t happen when you’re playing far superior talent because they might come back to cost you in the end.
Still, the Spurs did a good job of limiting their mistakes with only two turnovers in the first half while capitalizing on the Warriors’ 11 TO’s for 12 points. They also hit all 12 of their free throw attempts. They needed anything extra they could muster up since they shot under 40 percent for most of the half (mainly thanks to hitting just 3-17 from three) but still carried a 53-47 lead into the locker room largely thanks to 17 points from Aldridge and 10 from Gay.
Still, this is the Warriors we’re talking about, and good things don’t last forever, especially if you aren’t careful. After such a good first half, the Spurs opened the second with two straight TO’s, and the Warriors started on a 12-3 run to regain the lead and force a Pop timeout just four minutes in. The Warriors were back to their Game 1 ways of forcing turnovers, playing at a torrid pace, and switching on offense until guards were stuck on Durant as they built their lead as high as eight.
The Spurs still refused to fold, particularly Aldridge as he responded with a 9-0 run of his own to regain the lead at 67-66 and forced a Kerr timeout. However, the Warriors responded again with an 8-0 run and took an 80-75 lead into the fourth quarter that felt like it could have been much worse after such a poor start to the half.
Once again the Warriors opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run, compounded by a questionable clear-path call on Bryn Forbes after the Warriors attempted a long inbounds pass to Thompson (that he still easily caught), who scored six of those points and exploded for 24 of his 31 points on the night in the second half. The Warriors would keep the Spurs at arm’s length from there on, and once the lead got up to 13 with 2:33 to go, Pop waived the white flag and sent in his reserves to close out the 116-101 loss.
It was a much better effort tonight by the Spurs, so it’s hard to be too mad at them, but once again they were simply out-manned by a much more talented team. The Spurs will now head back to San Antonio and rest up for a Thursday tip-off at home, where they have been an entirely different team this season. Win Game 3 — and if they play like the team that went 33-8 at home then there’s no reason why they can’t — and this is still a series. Lose and that will likely be it for the Silver and Black.
Good Pop/Bad Pop
This was one of those games where at times you praised Pop’s line-up decisions, and other times he left you wondering what he was thinking. It was good to see him make that change to the starting line-up, and in the first half he seemed to have the match-up issues figured out by going with more length and no multi-guard lines-ups as long as Durant was on the court. He initially played Davis Bertans over Forbes, and at one point in the first quarter he had a pretty successful line-up with Manu running the point alongside Anderson, Gay, Bertans and Aldridge.
Then, just as the game was starting to slip away to start the fourth quarter, Pop came out with a line-up of Parker, Forbes, Danny Green, Bertans and Pau Gasol. This isn’t always a bad line-up, but it was horrible for this game considering Gasol was the only one who had anything close to an offensive game going with 12 points (the rest of that group combined for seven total points on the night). It didn’t even take two minutes for Pop to start putting the starters back in, but by then the damage was done and the Spurs were down double-digits, which would remain the case for almost the entire remainder of the game.
Another odd statistical night
The Spurs have made a habit this season of doing some things extremely well in certain games that make you think they should have won, but then they also do something so poorly that it costs them the outcome. In this case, the “good” included taking good care of the ball with just 9 turnovers (although seven came in the second half), 10 steals, hitting 26-29 free throws, and outscoring the Warriors 46-24 in the paint.
On the other end of the spectrum, they only shot 41.2 percent from the field and an atrocious 4-28 from three (which means they actually shot nearly 55 percent from two). On most nights and against most other teams the Spurs would have played well enough in those other aspects of the game to win. However, the Warriors aren’t most other teams (they did what they do and hit 15-31 from three), so the Spurs are going to have to shoot much better while doing the little things well if they want any chance of getting back into this series. Hopefully going home will help them do just that.
For the Warriors fans’ perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.
Game 3 will be on Thursday at the AT&T Center. Tip-off will be at 8:30 PM CT and can be viewed on FSSW or nationally on TNT.