69-9 (37-2 HOME)
64-12 (25-12 ROAD)
April 7, 2016
|Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
|TNT, CSN Bay Area | KNBR 680 AM|
|Blog Buddy: Pounding the Rock|
Warriors need a win tonight
Fresh off of a second home loss in three games, a convincing victory for the Golden State Warriors tonight over the San Antonio Spurs would go a long ways toward reminding the league that Oracle Arena is where teams go to lose.
It's hard to think of a better opportunity to restore order to the NBA universe than by crushing the Spurs again at home on the way to clinching home court advantage for the playoffs. As long as it took to build a 54-game win streak at home, two losses in three games opened the door to speculation that the Warriors may not be as dominant of hosts as we once thought. A loss to the Spurs tonight would further open that door with the playoffs looming.
One week ago, two home losses seemed unimaginable for the invincible Warriors. The loss to Boston was disappointing, yet understandable, on a night when the Dubs were without Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli and suffered a James Harden-esque tally of nine turnovers from Stephen Curry alone (and 22 for the team as a whole). It could have been worse, as all streaks must come to an end eventually. But the loss on Tuesday to the Timberwolves was disconcerting. Steve Kerr said that the game was lost in last six minutes of the first quarter, as the Warriors squandered an early lead while struggling with their nagging Achilles' heel: turnovers.
One common characteristic of the two home losses in the past week was 20-plus turnovers for the Warriors. Kerr constantly preaches the value of making the simple pass, yet turnovers continue to plague the team. Draymond Green suggested that the Warriors are bored with the regular season at this point, adding that it's not an excuse for a lower quality of play. Perhaps as Iggy gets back into condition after an extended absence recovering from an ankle sprain (again, thanks Damian Lillard), the turnovers in transition could be limited. But more importantly, the Warriors have to show more discipline on offense.
Another concern with these recent losses is any effect it may have on the team's confidence - Stephen Curry's confidence, in particular. He regularly refers to his confidence as a critical component of this masterful season. One has to wonder if recent shooting woes and turnovers are weighing on him. It'd be fantastic to see him break out with another 40 point performance before the playoffs start to give him some momentum as the stakes get higher.
What will Pop do?
The latest word as of Wednesday evening was that the Spurs will play their starters tonight. The media has been hanging on the words of Tony Parker, as asking Parker is usually a more pleasant experience than asking Greg Popovich. However, sources appear to have officially confirmed that the Spurs will play Kawhi Leonard and company. After Tim Duncan
sat out hardly played in the last game in San Antonio, keep an eye out to see if he's still in that starting lineup.
At this point, there is little for the Spurs to play for because the Warriors have three fewer losses than the Spurs and are highly likely to earn home court advantage for the playoffs. Is it possible for the Spurs to get the number one seed? Sure, but the odds are small that the Warriors will lose at least three of their remaining four games while the Spurs win all of their games. One Warriors victory over the Spurs (perhaps tonight!) would seal the deal.
Resting players can backfire
The Warriors are getting some flak from the media for putting too much emphasis on getting to 73 wins instead of resting players for the playoffs, as the Spurs have been doing lately. This criticism isn't quite fair yet, as the Warriors still haven't accomplished the goal of locking up home court advantage (not to mention the fact that the Dubs did rest starters back in December). It's not like they had a ten game buffer ahead of the Spurs. If the Warriors are playing poorly as a result of the distraction of getting to 73 wins, that's a legit concern. Otherwise, we should lay off their strategy as long as they are still taking care of business to get that number one seed.
There appears to be less criticism directed at the Spurs for, in a sense, giving up on home court advantage in March. The Spurs played without Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, and Kawhi Leonard (quad contusion) in Oklahoma City on March 26, losing the game badly. In retrospect, had the Spurs won that game, San Antonio would have eleven losses today versus Golden State's nine and would be in a position to earn home court advantage with two victories over the Warriors this week. That's a big deal considering how the Warriors have struggled to get wins in San Antonio during the Duncan era.
Perhaps those players truly needed to rest and the Spurs will be better off in the playoffs as a result of that rest even at the expense of the number one seed. And OKC may have won that game regardless of who played for the Spurs. There's no "right" answer here, but it seems that the Spurs' decision to rest players in that game should receive at least as much criticism as the Warriors' decision to play their starters at this point in the season. If we end up seeing a Game 7 in a Warriors-Spurs series, this could end up being a big topic of conversation.
Of course, the Warriors never had to bother with a Game 7 last season on their way to the title. If they were to face a Game 7 this year, it'd be great to see the Dubs restore that sense of invincibility at Roaracle Arena beforehand to make it feel like a foregone conclusion to opposing players and fans alike that Golden State will end up victorious. Tonight is the night to get that mojo back.