Spurs face early season test as they welcome Warriors to town
The San Antonio Spurs host the Golden State Warriors Friday night in a rematch of probably the second most entertaining series of last year’s playoffs. The Warriors really pushed the Spurs, particularly early in the series thanks to lights out shooting from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as some positional problems that took the Spurs some time to figure out. San Antonio eventually solved those problems and brought the hot shooting of Curry and Thompson back to earth in Games 5 and 6. Danny Green hounded a hobbled Curry and Kawhi Leonard was glued to Thompson. The only bugaboo for the Spurs, and it was an acceptable one, was Harrison Barnes attacking Tony Parker in the post. The Spurs also counted on the fact that the Warriors collectively couldn’t San Antonio’s offense.
They’ll likely rely on this strategy again when the two teams tip-off from the AT&T Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. We know the Spurs are more or less the same team as they were last year. Marco Belinelli’s a little bigger than Gary Neal and, maybe, just maybe, a little bit better defender. Otherwise, things are the same. Golden State said bye bye to Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry and hello to Andre Iguodala. So far this season, the switch has been brilliant. Right now, the Warriors aren’t just beating teams, they’re pulverizing them. According to ESPN.com, Golden State has a point differential of 12.8 points and that includes an 11-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (more on that in a bit). They’re holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field and under 30 percent from 3.
They also just got Barnes back, who might be the second best young small forward in the Western Conference behind Kawhi. There’s a pretty good chance we could see a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Andrew Bogut (assuming Curry plays, he’s a game time decision with an ankle bruise). That’s a potentially terrifying lineup the Spurs haven’t gotten a real look at due to Barnes’ toe injury. Do the Spurs counter with Leonard at the 4 and Ginobili subbing in for Splitter? Do they go with the extra aggressive Boris Diaw? Or do they stick with Splitter and take advantage of a mismatch on the other end?
On the flip side, the Warriors also haven’t seen much of the small ball line up either. It’s entirely possible those pieces don’t completely fit. It’s entirely possible Green will continue to hound Curry and Leonard won’t let Thompson get a clean look. That’s part of the uncertainty that comes with this game. We know what the Spurs will do to try to beat the Warriors, we just have no idea how this Golden State team will be able to adjust.
This team is the biggest enigma in the Western Conference. They’ve looked frightening for most of the season, but then there’s that Clippers game, where they played another powerhouse and looked perfectly content trying to outgun Chris Paul and company. Maybe they’re the good team that beats up on bad teams.
I spent most of the time here talking about the Warriors because we know what we’re going to get from the Spurs. We have no clue what Golden State is yet. We don’t know if Mike Malone was actually the brains of the Warriors last year (wouldn’t surprise me). We don’t know if they’ll be close to healthy come playoff time. Still, their ceiling might be as high as anyone in the conference and we already know they’re a challenge for the Spurs. Pay close attention to this one Spurs fans. Oh and have fun watching, because it’s going to be fun.