Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
7:30 p.m. PST
Radio: KNBR 680 AM | TV: National ESPN
Buddy Blog: Pounding The Rock
Welcome back basketball! This felt like a mini-offseason of sorts - a surprisingly big swell of trades and buyout details shifting power all over the association. For Warriors fans, we held tight to to the roster with no changes. Fans were treated to a Splash Brothers takeover of New York, the rest of the squad was resting up amidst discussions of roster additions for the stretch run. Friday night they head back to Oracle to face an old nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs remain a point of self-doubt for the Warriors - a reminder of struggles of years past. Golden State, whom has accomplished quite a lot so far, still holds the responsibility to overcome the top-tier teams and prove they are what they hope to become: a confident, elite powerhouse.
San Antonio aren't just the litmus test for the Warriors. As the league champs they hold the bar over every other team in the association. Greg Popovich leads his team, anchored by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, who is having a top-level year deserving of his All-Star roster spot. San Antonio has continued to do just enough to stay in contention in the West while never looking completely dominant. They seem completely intent on inching toward the playoffs while aiming for complete health (Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard have missed time) to capture a mid-range playoff seed. The good news? The Spurs are playing the back end of a back-to-back, losing to the Clippers in Los Angles on Thursday night.
It's Steph Curry & squad's time to show how far they have come. Can you play king-of-the-hill and beat the Spurs? Sure, this is no playoff game. But there is a very good chance this is some sort of playoff preview and don't think either team will look past it. Both the Spurs and Warriors greatly needed the extended All-Star break. The Warriors had clearly lost their efficient edge in the last five games before the break, squeaking by the Timberwolves and looking vulnerable against the Knicks and 76ers. They had begun to looks slow on defense, stagnant on offense, and generally fatigued. Getting extended rest for Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut can only do wonders for the second half run.
The Spurs needed the break just as much.They come back that much closer to full strength, ready to kick into gear for another title run. Remember last year - a huge post-break run propelled them to the playoffs and carried them all the way to the trophy. It's time for them to kick it into top gear, and let's hope that doesn't start Friday night at Oracle.
Warriors vs. San Antonio - Early Season Test
Warriors 100 - Spurs 113
The Warriors had 19 turnovers and looked sloppy all night. Even though the Warriors outshot the Spurs, Parker and Leonard controlled the pace all night. The Spurs put it away in the 3rd quarter, and the Warriors were served with an early two-game losing streak that lead to some self doubt. The good news? Golden State won 16 straight after this home loss.
- Preparing for the stretch run - The Warriors play this game in Oakland before hitting the road again back to the East Coast. The rest of February will be spent dethawing the northeast - with games in Brooklyn, Washington and up to Toronto. Will the team come off the break with court rust and get off on the wrong foot before a particularly challenging stretch? Or will Steve Kerr and the home crowd motivate them into their own top gear?
- Did the All-Stars get enough rest? - While the team was sitting at home and on the beach, Steph and Klay were doing fashion shows, product launches and publicity tours. Will the Splash Brothers look rejuvenated or will they carry a hangover?
- Klay Thompson shakes off his inefficient all-star game to carry the Warriors offense. I'm hoping he took notes on the attacking aggressive games of Russel Westbrook and James Harden to help the Warriors stay aggressive and control the pace by getting to the line.
- The Spurs will again show off their efficient offense and patience. But their gawdy shooting percentages won't hold up against fresh Warrior legs.- it will be a total team effort for Golden State. Look for the home crowd to push the Warriors past the Spurs in a relatively close matchup, with the Warriors taking it 105 - 98.