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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Warriors

Another last-second go-ahead bucket keeps San Antonio alive in a crowded Western Conference play-in race.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs survived a second-half rally from the similarly understaffed Golden State Warriors as Keldon Johnson swooped to the rescue. Despite losing a 14-point lead with Steph Curry unavailable, the Big Body sealed the deal with a gigantic go-ahead putback layup with 0.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

Josh Richardson notched a team-high 25 points off the bench, Dejounte added 19 points, six rebounds, and eight assists, and Keldon also stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, seven boards, and five dimes. Zach Collins and Josh Primo chipped in 11 points apiece, and Devin Vassell rattled in a trifecta of threes for 12 points.

Though the Silver and Black shot 38.8% from the field, they came up with just enough stops to outlast the Warriors while making up some ground in the play-in tournament race. The good guys are doing their part to shrink the gap in the standings, but they will need help from the rest of the NBA to make the Lakers and Pelicans fall apart.

Observations

  • Before we do anything else, let’s get this out of the way. Keldon Johnson deserves all the praise in the world for boxing out, corralling, and putting back that Jakob Poeltl missed free throw to win the game right before the buzzer on Sunday night. It was an exhilarating last-second sequence that kept San Antonio’s play-in hopes alive and one that undoubtedly had fans on their feet. With that said, the Spurs probably should have lost with how poorly they played in crunch time. But escaping victorious makes it easier to gloss over the 47 minutes and 59 seconds that preceded the go-ahead bucket. The starters shot a combined 23-of-68 (33.8%) from the field, the Silver and Black relinquished a 14-point first-half lead, and this lackluster performance came against a Warriors team that came in without Stephen Curry and saw Draymond Green ejected in the third quarter. Learning how to win down the stretch is crucial for inexperienced squads, and each dub gets Gregg Popovich and crew closer towards the postseason. However, getting outscored in the clutch only to be bailed out by late-game heroics isn’t a sustainable method of success. San Antonio might sneak into the play-in, and if they do, this level of execution won’t get them far.
  • Practically every opponent has packed the paint against San Antonio ever since the Raptors found success with that strategy earlier this month. As a result, the Spurs have turned into a high-volume jump-shooting offense over the last couple of weeks. The Silver and Black attempted 34 three-pointers in 23 of their first 67 games this season. They have hit or passed that mark in each of their last five outings, even trying 40 trifectas versus Golden State on Sunday. If you were wondering if that was maybe a little more than usual, San Antonio has only launched 40 threes 11 times during the Gregg Popovich era. The Spurs punished the shorthanded Warriors by draining 15 triples at the Chase Center, and they should continue letting it fly as long as teams dare them to shoot the long ball.
  • Josh Richardson has established himself as a valuable acquisition for San Antonio since joining the franchise at the trade deadline. The 28-year-old guard has drilled 48.5% of his three-pointers during his first 11 games with the Spurs. That is the seventh-highest percentage in the NBA across that timeframe. Richardson was on fire against Golden State, with 25 points in 27 minutes off the bench. He attacked mismatches versus bigs on dribble handoffs, nailed a corner three, stepped into midrange jumpers, knocked down several deep above-the-break triples. The seasoned sharpshooter will make $12.2M next season, and the front office could either keep him around to fortify the second unit or move him for more draft capital. This situation is a win-win for general manager Brian Wright regardless of what he opts for this summer. Saying goodbye to Derrick White in the deal for Josh Richardson stung for fans, but it looks more and more like the Spurs made the right decision with each passing day.