San Antonio narrowly defeated the revamped Houston Rockets on Saturday night, surviving an offensive onslaught from John Wall and Eric Gordon. Though the Silver and Black surrendered two separate double-digit leads throughout the contests, they were able to seal the deal behind a rare pair of successful free throws from Jakob Poeltl and some timely late-game heroics from DeMar DeRozan.
It was a team-first effort led by 30 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists from DeMar DeRozan that saw six Spurs reach double-figures and two miss that mark by a single point. And their defense took a promising step in the right direction with Derrick White and Dejounte Murray starting alongside each other for the first time since last season during the NBA Restart.
The short-staffed Spurs now have a shot at redeeming themselves against a white-hot Warriors club that blew them out nearly three weeks ago as they kick off a back-to-back versus Golden State. Steph Curry is fresh off a 57 point performance in a one-possession loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and he isn’t likely to shy away firing away for this banged-up bunch.
San Antonio Spurs (13-10) vs. Golden State Warriors (12-11)
February 8, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST
Watch: KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Lonnie Walker IV (Out — Illness), LaMarcus Aldridge (Out — Hip), Luka Samanic (Out — On Assignment), Tre Jones (Out — On Assignment)
Warriors Injuries: Klay Thompson (Out — Achilles), Marquese Chriss (Out — Leg), Kevon Looney (Out — Ankle), Eric Paschall (Day-to-Day — Knee), James Wiseman (Out — Wrist), Alen Smailagić (Out — On Assignment), Jordan Poole (Out — On Assignment), Nico Mannion (Out — On Assignment)
Stifling Steph Curry
There’s no doubt Steph Curry is the engine that makes the Warriors run. The two-time MVP is averaging 29.4 points per game (3rd in NBA) and is knocking on the door of becoming just the third player in league history with multiple 50-40-90 seasons on their resume. And you must be doing something extraordinary any time people mention you in the same breath as Steve Nash and Larry Bird.
Not only is Curry in the middle of one of the most impressive comeback seasons in recent memory, but he’s willed Golden State and a lackluster supporting cast to victory without Klay Thompson and several significant role-players. Even in losses, Steph is setting jaw-dropping records, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the second Warrior to notch multiple 55-point games in a single season.
The Spurs know all too well that the sharpshooting point guard can get hot in a hurry, and if they can’t contain Curry, San Antonio could be facing yet another blowout at the hands of the Dubs. Golden State is 8-4 when Steph scores at least 28 points this season, and throwing a combination of Derrick White and Dejounte Murray at him for 48 minutes might be the best way to ensure he doesn’t reach that mark.
Attacking the Interior
As was the case with the Denver Nuggets a few weeks ago, Golden State is among the worst teams defending the rim, allowing their opponents to shoot 64.9% within the restricted area over their last ten games. The main culprit behind their struggles protecting the paint as of late stems from a lack of a serviceable starting center. And a slew of frontcourt injuries has only amplified their problem.
With James Wiseman, Marquese Chriss, and Kevon Looney on the shelf with various ailments, the Warriors have trotted out Draymond Green at the five in the most literal small-ball lineups imaginable. Former second-rounder Alen Smailagić might have been a viable option to add some size to their depleted roster. However, the six-ten stretch-four is unavailable due to a recent G-League assignment.
Everything points towards a perfect storm for the Spurs to make a living at the tin against the shorthanded Warriors, and that’s precisely what San Antonio should do. Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks aren’t typically threats to score many points, and the good guys shouldn’t force-feed them the ball, though they shouldn’t second-guess pitching the ball into the post if a favorable mismatch arises.
More than anything, the Silver and Black should use their massive height advantage to dominate the boards for second-chance opportunities. Pop and company haven’t won the rebounding battle on many occasions this season. But they’re 6-1 when they do and have no excuse not to clean the glass when the Warriors come to town, especially with Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins being their tallest adversaries.
Protecting the Perimeter
For years the key to stopping the Golden State has been holding them in check from beyond the arc. Though the Warriors don’t perfectly resemble the dynasty that once ruled the NBA for half a decade, head coach Steve Kerr has stayed true to his philosophies of unselfish ball-movement and quick-trigger three-point shooting. It took this hodgepodge of unfamiliar faces a minute to get adjusted, but they’re finally starting to click.
The Dubs are draining 40.2% of their 37.8 three-point attempts per game and dishing out 29 assists each night over their last ten contests, both top two in the NBA in their respective statistical categories over that period. San Antonio can’t afford to leave the perimeter vulnerable to another long-range barrage, and they have the personnel to filter marksmen into the paint where their rim-protectors can alter shots near the basket.
For the Warriors fans’ perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.
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.