Pre-gaming: Spurs vs. Warriors Game 5
AT&T CENTER — Despite losing Game 4 to the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs are back in San Antonio in better shape than when they left last Thursday. And with a few extra hours to rest various bumps and bruises than they had in the 36-hour layoff between the third and fourth games, both teams are in decent physical shape before the pivotal Game 5.
At least that’s what the coaches are saying.
But by this time in a best-of-seven series, both teams know what they’re getting. As Gregg Popovich said, players are going to play.
- After four games, the chess match has hit its stretch run. You know what your opponent’s next move is oftentimes, it’s just a matter of execution, Pop said. “By this time, both teams have made little tweaks here and there to what they want to do. It really gets to the point where players play, players make shots or make plays that determine the outcome of games at this point really.”
- When asked about what he’s learned about the Warriors over the last eight days, Pop took a line from a classic Dennis Green press conference: “They are who we thought they were. Young, talented, energetic, motivated team. Mark [Jackson] has formed it into a good executing group at both ends of the floor, not just offense. They play good, solid D. They play hard, they play physically. That’s what we expected and that’s what we got.”
- Jackson did talk about basketball, though. One of the big questions has been the status of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut throughout the series. “I’ll wait until the work out but both seemed to be feeling a little better. We’ll see how it goes once I get back to the locker room but we didn’t do much today, not a lot of movement, but both seemed better.” For what it’s worth, Curry seemed to be moving around smoothly during his pre-game routines.
- When asked about his team’s shooting and defense, Pop said rebounding was his biggest issue. “I’m not all that concerned with defensive deficiencies. There are always going to be defensive deficiencies, that’s why the games aren’t 10-8. I’m not trying to be a wise-ass, people are going to make mistakes and the scores are going to be in the 80s, 90s and 100s, whatever, because it’s human beings and they can’t be perfect in that regard. I’m more concerned about the rebounding than I am the defense. I thought we made — if Golden State is going to 84 points again tonight, I’ll be a happy man. It’s not easy to hold them to 84 points. But there were lots of situations where they got second and third shots and I thought they were hungrier and more maniacal in going after the boards and 50-50 balls than we were in that game. So that’s a concern and the other one is our shooting. We haven’t this bad, we had one good game out of four as far as shooting goes. Last game was horrendous with 55 [percent] at the line when we were shooting about 80 [percent] all year. It’s like catching the shooting flu or something all of a sudden in this round. I’m concerned about that, but we can do more about the rebounding than the shooting. It’ll either come back or it won’t, but the rebounding you can work at.”
- Mark Jackson had some more interesting things to say during his pre-game press conference in this one: “I just knew it was something special about these guys, and I knew the winning spirit was flowing all throughout them. I believe that the hand of God is on this basketball team. I said to my church, in front of this basketball team, that God was going to use this team — with all its flaws, shortcomings, hurt, excuses, history — to show folks that if he can do it with us, he can certainly do it in their situation. Because the hand that they’ve been dealt is probably better than the hand that we’ve been dealt, when you look from top to bottom, how this team has been able to beat the odds. Like I said, it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s mine.” I leave this without comment.
- Lastly, Pop said Parker is doing OK despite struggling through Game 4. “He couldn’t plant, he couldn’t push off, getting up on his toes was tough. He and Curry both looked like they were not themselves. (Parker) just got kicked in the calf. So there’s, like, a knot in your calf. It just affects movement. It affects explosiveness. He’s better today.”
I expect the Spurs to shoot the ball much better this evening with a little extra rest under their belt and their legs underneath them. Between field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage, Game 4 featured the worst combined shooting percentage of the Pop/Duncan era. I doubt that happens again. And considering they nearly won a playoff game despite such an awful performance, the Spurs should feel good about where they’re sitting. But they must continue to play good defense, and rebound, rebound, rebound.