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Warriors @ Spurs Preview: Kerr’s middle finger to the league

No Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, or Green tonight

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
None of these guys are playing tonight
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

What: Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs

When: 5:30 p.m. PST

How to watch: ABC

Buddy Blog: Pounding the Rock

Steve Kerr dropped a bombshell in his postgame press interview last night


With the Spurs resting their star Kawhi Leonard, this seemed like a game we would go after. However, as numerous players and observers noted, the Warriors’ travel schedule has been absolutely absurd. After a lengthy road trip, they flew home, played a game, and then immediately flew back to the east coast for last night’s game - which was a heart-breaking one point loss.

After that game? You guessed it, another 3+ hours of travel - which gets them to their hotel around 4am.

The Warriors have not looked like themselves lately. With this rest, the Warriors’ key players will effectively get three days off to re-calibrate themselves.

It was a pretty wild postgame last night. Be sure to check out Bram’s recap thread for numerous interviews and takeaways. Everything from Draymond Green fighting to not laugh when asked if he thought Kerr did this to send a message to the league, to Andre Iguodala’s cryptic and somewhat disconcerting “whatever master wants” comment - it was crazy!

Anthony Slater was at the epicenter of all of it; check out his twitter if you want to catch up quickly. Also, GSOM mega-resource BornInDaEB found this Tim Kawakami article that succinctly explains the motives here.

Ok, sooo, I guess we are still playing the game today, so here is what’s left of my original game preview:

Kawhi not

The Spurs announced that Leonard (head) has been diagnosed with a concussion and won't be available for Saturday's game against the Warriors. He took an inadvertent elbow, which looked pretty innocuous at first.

Apparently he displayed concussion symptoms after the game and has since entered the concussion protocol. This is no Pop ploy and I know that I’m not alone in wishing Kawhi Leonard a speedy and complete recovery.

Recall that in the 30 point drubbing they handed us to start the season, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points on us, and non-rookie JonathonBen Simmons (who will replace Leonard in all likelihood) dropped a career-high 20.

The Spurs are on fire right now – or are they?

In case you’ve been living under a rock recently, allow me to reiterate that the Spurs are an elite team. Dating back to before the All Star break, the Spurs had won 9 in a row prior to their Thursday night loss at OKC. Over the last four games (excluding his early exit against OKC) Kawhi Leonard has averaged 33.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks. He’s also made some spectacular end-of-game plays to seal wins – and potentially cement his bid for NBA MVP.

They rely a lot on their starters, but their bench also has the highest net rating in the NBA (+10.5 points) – even more important now that we know they will be without Leonard. Ex-Warrior David Lee and wily veteran Pau Gasol pair nicely with Patty Mills, and the Spurs have yet again found valuable rotation players to fill their roster admirably after the huge loss of Tim Duncan this season (scheduling note: be sure and watch Tim Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony at halftime on Saturday).

On Thursday, they sat their two aging stars, Tony Parker (back stiffness) and Manu Ginobli (old); plus they will be without Warrior killing sharp shooter Kyle Anderson (sprained knee) on Saturday to go along with their leading scorer, Leonard.

Warriors are a trash fire right now – or are they?

It’s no secret that the Warriors are missing Kevin Durant. I don’t want to rehash it all here, but you should check out this SB Nation article by Kristian Winfield which does a great job of laying out the issues.

To sum up: Durant is very good; any team would be hurt by his loss. The factors compounding this impact right now are two-fold.

1.) Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are not shooting well – Curry has only hit 25% of his threes in the games since Durant went down. Thompson has shot 35% overall from the field in the same time frame. That’s bad for pretty much any NBA player, downright egregious for all-world sharpshooters.

2.) Our reserves/bench can’t cover up for the lack of Durant and the poor shooting from the Splash Brothers.

There’s also the scheduling gods to contend with:

In addition to just the general loss of talent, the lack of Durant has had an obvious and extreme impact on floor spacing. Bottom line though is that we need Curry and Thompson to shoot better. It doesn’t really matter how many miles the team traveled, or how often we run a pick and roll if no one can sink an open shot.

Outlook for the game

The biggest storyline for this game is who WON’T be playing. The Spurs have this freakish ability to pull wins out of nowhere, even while resting significant rotation players. We will see if the Warriors are able to conjure a similar vein of magic.

Remember that, by design, we do not have an elite scoring bench. We made the conscious decision to steer away from high scoring yet inefficient players like Mo Speights and Leandro Barbosa and instead elected to go with stable defense-first players like David West and vanilla, mistake-adverse players like Ian Clark. I expect tonight’s game to be ugly.

Kind of a bummer that we don’t get to see a full strength Warriors/Spurs matchup. But I hope the conversation steers back to how brutal these travel stretches can be on players. Kerr is no dummy. By resting his players during a prime time, nationally televised game, he is maximizing the impact of this move.

I heard this was the most expensive Spurs ticket of the season, and I do feel bad for anyone who is going to be disappointed tonight. That said, screw the NBA and all the schedule-making shananigans.

Team Statistical comparison

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