After losing to the Spurs in their first two meetings of the season by an average of nearly 26 points — and going down by as many as 22 points midway through the first quarter of last night’s game — the Warriors refused to get swept in the season series.
Had San Antonio held on to its lead, the Spurs would have pulled within one game in the loss column for the top seed in the West.
From the start of the game, San Antonio exposed Golden State’s lack of size by pounding them on the boards with a 28-13 advantage on the glass in the first half. Eleven of the Spurs’ rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to 16 second-chance points. The Warriors getting pulverized in the rebounding department was reminiscent of the season opener, when the Spurs grabbed 21 offensive boards en route to a blowout victory that stunned Oracle Arena.
Draymond Green, however, wasn’t worried about the early shellacking in last night’s game. Per ESPN:
“I told somebody on the bench — I think we were down like 22 — I said, ‘Yo, as crazy as this is about to sound, they’re up 22 points, and I don’t feel like they’re dominating us,’” Green said. “It’s, like, missed layups, turnover here, a missed offensive rebound here. Like, I never felt like they were dominating us. Now, don’t get me wrong. They definitely blitzed us, but it just wasn’t, like, where I felt like we couldn’t get our game and get control of the game back. It took a lot.”
Green’s quote proved prophetic as the Dubs displayed resiliency and cut into the Spurs’ lead by playing suffocating defense. The Warriors forced the Spurs to shoot just 41 percent from the field. Andre Iguodala, who’s been on a tear as of late, helped turn the game around when he checked in late in the first quarter. The former Finals MVP looked like Durant by hitting four heavily contested mid-range shots throughout the contest, including a fade away jumper at the buzzer to end the first quarter, which was eerily similar to the game-winner he hit at Oracle against the Thunder a few years back.
After the slump that plagued Golden State when Durant got injured, the Warriors have officially regained the supernatural shot-making ability from a season ago. They were red-hot in the second quarter, scoring 37 points, to make it a three-point game at halftime. The Splash Brothers combined to hit 8-of-17 threes.
In addition to the lights-out shooting, Golden State swarmed MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard, who shot 7-20 from the field and missed all five of his threes, and held Tony Parker scoreless in 24 minutes. Forcing MVP-caliber players into bad games has become a trend for the Warriors.
The Spurs’ struggles to score were exacerbated by playing two traditional big men who aren’t known for their ability to stretch the floor, in David Lee and Pau Gasol (although Gasol can knock down the occasional three). But even more problematic is their immobility on defense against a small-ball Warriors’ lineup. Golden State frequently attacked the Spurs’ slow-footed big men, and Lee was a game-worst minus-17 in his 16 minutes. Per ESPN Stats and Info, the Warriors shot 5-of-7 when Lee was the primary defender and 3-of-5 against Gasol for a total of 18 points.
The Warriors made a fool of their former teammate, David Lee, particularly in the third quarter. After getting the ball stripped by Iguodala, leading to Curry’s second dunk of the season, Lee got rejected emphatically at the rim by the person who took his starting job: Draymond Green.
The Spurs’ crowd booed Gasol’s and Lee’s predecessor, David West, who had one of his best games of the year. The former Spur accumulated 15 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks.
This was absolutely Golden State’s biggest win of the season, especially if it is a harbinger of things to come in a potential Western Conference matchup against the Spurs. If they struggled to both score against and defend the Warriors last night, will they even have a chance when Durant gets back?