Give-and-go preview: Ethan Sherwood Strauss stops by to talk Spurs – Warriors
With Game 1 FINALLY just hours away, Ethan Sherwood Strauss — he of many Internet writing homes like ESPN and Bleacher Report, among others — stopped by to talk about the upcoming Western Conference Semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. We talked about the Dubs’ wild first-round series with Denver, Stephen Curry, the team’s future and a few predictions. You know what? Just read…
Matthew Tynan, 48 Minutes of Hell: OK, Ethan. Two questions first of all. That was a pretty convincing first-round victory for the Dubs against a favored opponent. Did you see the onslaught coming? And secondly, watching the final minutes of Game 6, did you think Golden State would ever inbound the ball again? Ever?
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: I might not have seen the onslaught coming, but I did see how it could come — if that makes sense. The Warriors shoot the 3 excellently, and Denver defends the perimeter poorly. When David Lee went down with a hip flexor, it prompted Golden State to go 4-out, stretching the Nuggets defense to its breaking point. Note: This will not happen against an excellent San Antonio perimeter defense.
I was starting to think Golden State would never inbound again, but I didn’t buy the narrative that THIS is why they’ll lose to San Antonio. Denver’s athletic, swarming attack overwhelmed the largely unathletic Dubs. San Antonio will beat Golden State for other reasons.
MT: So, I’m getting an inkling you don’t think the Warriors can beat the Spurs… OK, understood. But Gregg Popovich said at Friday’s presser that Golden State is a ‘very good team,’ not a ‘dangerous team,’ saying there’s a big difference between the two descriptions. Obviously you can deduce he means the Warriors are better than just ‘dangerous.’ But you’ve briefly expressed in your thoughts that this is a really bad matchup for the Dubs. If they can’t hit their 3s — something the Spurs defend well, as you pointed out — are they done? Is it as simple as that, or do they have anything else without Lee in the lineup?
ESS: I think it really is as simple as that. This is a good offense with a colossal weakness: Nobody can penetrate. So, if San Antonio defends the perimeter, the Warriors have no counterpunch. There is, however, the off chance that GSW’s small ball stretches the Spurs’ defense to a breaking point — I doubt that will happen, though.
MT: So what if I brought up the fact the Spurs’ 3-point percentage defense has been slipping over the last month or two? Do you read into that at all?
ESS: Stop trying to give me hope! Amount of attempts still matters more than percentage to me. So long as the Spurs are keeping 3-point attempts low, I have similarly low hopes for the series. Maybe Stephen Curry goes nuts and beats the odds? Maybe Bogut is even more effective down low this series? I’m grasping here, man.
MT: OK, OK. I’ll quit holding the straws out. But in all honesty, the Spurs haven’t played a game in eight freaking days. You can get a lot done in eight days. Sure, you can get healthy, but you can also get rusty. If Golden State can stay hot and sneak away with Game 1, then things change a bit, and Oracle is one hell of a home-court advantage.
But to move on from that: Regardless of the series outcome, this Golden State roster has one hell of a future, something the “We Believe” team didn’t necessarily have. If Bogut is able to revitalize his career and maintain his health alongside that perimeter, is this a roster that could quickly grow into a title contender with progress and maybe an extra piece or two?
ESS: Yes, I am much more positive on the long term prospects of this roster than I am on the immediate prospects against San Antonio. Stephen Curry is a fundamentally different player than he was at the beginning of the year, due to his realization that almost any shot is a good one. David Lee’s contract is a hindrance, but apart from that, the Warriors are young, good and growing. I just wish they’d surround Curry with more shooters and at least one slash-and-kick operator.
MT: More shooters?! Man, why do you want to set the NBA on fire? I kid, they could use a a couple more. It’s just that, alongside Steph and Klay, it wouldn’t be fair… You talked a little about Steph, but he’s already setting records and standing alone historically in some aspects. He’s 25, how much better can he be? And not just as a shooter… a passer, a defender, a “floor general?” Wait, can he get better as a shooter?! Because that doesn’t seem possible.
ESS: Curry’s passing could stand to improve a la latter-career Steve Nash. While his shooting is probably near peak levels, he misses a lot of layups. It didn’t used to be that way, but after a series of ankle injuries, he’s just not the same around the rim. So, layups and passing are the two areas where Steph can find improvement.
MT: You’ve basically already told us who you think will win the series, so how quickly does it happen? And exactly how far do you see the Spurs going? You’ve warned Twitter followers to not fall for what they’re doing in the past… but with no Russ in OKC, what say you now?
ESS: I say Spurs in 5. And yes, I warned people not to fall for the Spurs, but the Westbrook injury changes the landscape. Memphis, OKC, and San Antonio all have a great shot at the Finals, and the Spurs get to duck either the Grizzlies or Thunder. I suppose I’d pick Memphis in the event of that series, but I’d probably pick San Antonio over Russ-less OKC.
MT: I agree, Spurs in 5. But as for the rest of those predictions, well, I guess only time will tell. Thanks, Ethan.