When Golden State's older-brother / doppelgangers came up on the schedule, it figured to be an early showcase for Steve Kerr's new Spurs-inspired offense. And what a showcase it was: the Warriors surprisingly kept their turnovers down to ‘just' 20, and shot nearly 55% as a team. And yet they still somehow lost by double-digits at home to the defending NBA Champions.
The game got away from the Warriors in the fourth quarter as the Spurs turned white-hot, outscoring a feisty and desperate Warriors team. By the end, Curry's 75-game streak with a three-point basket was dead, and Tim Duncan was giggling on the bench.
It didn't start out ugly, however. Harrison Barnes came out of the gate exactly as he did against these same Spurs in the playoffs two seasons ago. He attacked the rim like a bad man with even worse intentions while hitting his spot up opportunities, and he showed off some nifty moves in the process. Barnes finished with 22 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting. If someone could get Barnes to play in dark sunglasses, maybe (just maybe) he'd think everyone was wearing San Antonio's Black and Gray.
The most impressive Warrior was Klay Thompson. Showing no ill effects from the sprained hand that sidelined him for Sunday's matinee, Klay matched the Black Falcon's aggressiveness. He poured in a game-high 29 points, with five rebounds and four assists, while shooting an efficient 9-of-17 from the field and 5-of-6 from deep. He also got to the line six times, and cashed in on every freebie. Stephen Curry was, for the first time this season, the missing man. The budding superstar never found his stroke, going 0-of-7 from deep and 7-of-18 overall.
Although Golden State's turnovers were a major problem, the offensive rebounding was a much more surprising issue. Coming into tonight, the Spurs were 24th in the league in offense rebounds, and 26th a year ago with essentially the same roster. Yet tonight, they simply beat the Warriors to every single rebound, winning the offensive rebounding battle 8-1. That, plus the turnover disparity (19-8) gave the Spurs a significant shots attempted advantage, 93-70.
Even though the Warriors out-shot the Spurs 54.3% to 49.5%, the Spurs got an additional 23 looks from the field. That's just too much for any team to overcome, although for a time it looked as if the Warriors might.
In the first half, the Warriors' defense looked like a Championship unit once again, holding the Spurs to a measly 40.8% from the field. But sadly for the Dubs, when it wasn't the defense, it was the offense. The second unit really struggled from the field, and at one point late in the third the bench was being outscored 33-6 by the Spurs backups. In a continuing trend, Andre Iguodala appeared determined to master his Shaun Livingston impersonation. Keep chasing the dream, buddy.
With David Lee out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, the bench is really gasping for air. Either Draymond Green or Lee would provide the bench with a good scorer when the Splash Brothers sit (or are ineffective), and Lee's passing would figure to help remedy the inconsistent ball movement.
A late surge in the fourth saved the bench unit's numbers tonight, getting them to a semi-respectable 20 points for the night. But basketball is a game of ebbs and flows, and while the Warriors are out-shooting the Spurs 55% to 41% (as they were at halftime), they were trailing by six due to shortcomings elsewhere. The team sorely needed a cushion to fend off the Spurs for when their shots started falling, but the bench was nowhere to be found.
Despite playing on the second half of a road back-to-back, Popovich played his whole lineup like it was a must-win. And for a team getting long in the tooth, San Antonio never looked it. Tony Parker cut up the Warriors defense, scoring without fail from the mid-range. He tallied 28 points on 17 shots and seven assists against just one turnover.
For perhaps the first time this season, the small forward conundrum produced a counter argument. While Harrison Barnes was slicing and attacking in the starting lineup alongside Thompson and Curry, Iguodala played passively, attempting just two shots all night. His night was exemplified by a late possession, in which he jump stopped right under the rim with a defender a half-step late to defend. Rather than use his athleticism to elevate for a dunk or foul, he whipped the ball into the back court, resulting in another turnover.
On a night like this, it's easy to see how Harrison Barnes could have been a positive influence on the second unit while getting more shot attempts from the field. Additionally, Andre Iguodala's apparent disinterest in scoring wouldn't be nearly as glaring with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry taking the extra shots.
The Warriors will have to pick up their hearts and move on quickly. The 5-2 Dubs face Eastern Conference Player of the Week Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. The 4-3 Spurs travel to Staples Center to play the Los Angeles Lakers.