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Warriors vs. Spurs preview: You go to war with the army you have

No Kawhi Leonard and no Andre Iguodala in Game 2 as the Dubs try to go up 2-0.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs, Game 2

Tuesday, May 16

6:00 p.m. PST

Oracle Arena


Even after they dominated the NBA during the regular season, everyone knew coming into this series that the Warriors were going to be in for a battle. This proved to be true as Game 1 was quite the challenge. The Spurs could do no wrong, hitting shots and defending at a high level, they build a lead up to 25 points and it looked like the Warriors had no answer. None of our players seemed capable of slowing Kawhi Leonard down. Then it all changed. Eight minutes into the third quarter, after rolling his injured ankle twice, Leonard was forced to come off the floor.

The Warriors then went on an 18-0 run, cutting the Spurs’ 23-point lead to just five and eventually pushing their way to victory, but not without losing Andre Iguodala. Taking stock afterwards, it was a grueling game: both sides sent a star player to get an MRI the following day. And so, we reconvene for Game 2 with a fresh perspective on the fragility of a title run and a resolute commitment to get there with the team we have available.

Leonard and Iguodala both OK, but both out

Neat-o. No structural damage is good news, long-term. In the short-term, it still means that both will miss Game 2. In an odd scheduling quirk — there’s a ton of off time before Saturday’s game 3 — but that’s still not really enough time to come back from a sprained ankle or knee. Without them, both teams are going to have to adjust their rotations.

For the Spurs, it is going to be about much more than just covering the 36 minutes per game that Kawhi plays. As Manu Ginobli said after the game, they lost their best player and somehow the Spurs are going to have to overcome this if they hope to have a chance in this series. As noted by ESPN’s 538 blog, the Warriors won a game in late March against the Spurs when Leonard was healthy. In that game, Golden State, without Kevin Durant, came back from an early 22-point deficit to beat San Antonio 110-98 despite being on the road. In a series in which they were already heavily the underdog, this puts the Spurs in a tough spot.

What worked and didn’t work?

It’s tough to take much away from Game 1 — both sides pretty much had their way with the other by the time the game ended. As per this excellent recap from Pounding the Rock’s Tom Piccalo, before Leonard left the game, the Spurs were outscoring the Warriors 36-16 in points in the paint and 24-14 in points off turnovers. Also, 43.6% of Golden State’s made field goals were unassisted in Game 1 versus their regular season average of 29.5%.

You can see what the Spurs strategy is: jump the passing lanes on defense and attack the paint on the other end. It was working for a while. San Antonio switched on off-ball screens and forced the Warriors into playing isolation basketball — and the Warriors seemed eager to oblige by sticking with isolation plays for Durant and Stephen Curry.

The Warriors will need to focus on getting back to “Warriors ball.” As much as we CAN rely on Curry and Durant to hero-ball us to a win again, it is much more sustainable to keep moving and passing — it’s what Steve Kerr would want!

The Spurs are going to have to figure something out, but they probably will. For what it’s worth, LaMarcus Aldridge was pretty well contained by Draymond Green (he went 2-9 on the game while covered by Green). Golden State will be more than happy to let Aldridge keep firing away from the high block. One area where the Spurs missed Leonard the most was in initiating the offense. Without regular floor general Tony Parker, the loss of Leonard really exposed the Spurs to the Warriors on-ball pressure.

Where the hell is Klay Thompson?

Klay Thompson was 2 for 11 in Game 1, making it the second time in as many weeks that he’s been outscored by Zaza Pachulia. I don’t think we need to worry a ton about Thompson’s scoring, but if I’m Kerr and Mike Brown, I’d engineer a few plays designed to get Thompson good looks early in Game 2. He’s been a little off this entire post season, but anything he contributes in Game 2 is essentially found money. In a game where we already have a perceived advantage, the re-emergence of Thompson could be the straw the breaks the camel’s back.

Anthony Slater brought up the point that this may be directly associated with the number of looks he’s been getting:

Thompson took 17.6 shots per game this season, a slight tick above the 17.3 he averaged a season before even when Kevin Durant wasn’t part of the offense. But in the playoffs — unlike last year when he spiked up to 24.3 points per game on 18.9 shots in 24 playoff games — Thompson’s only taking 14.3 shots per game.

Without Leonard to contend with on defense, I’m hoping it frees up some of Thompson’s attention and energy on the offensive end.


We called for a sweep in our preview and that means that we have to put another win down for this game. As long as the Warriors maintain their poise, it’s hard for me to imagine the Spurs reserves hanging in as well with this game. Warriors by double digits.

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