OAKLAND, Calif. — San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t mad at his team, just disappointed. Like a father lecturing his son, Pop scolded his players for playing with a lack of belief in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals without Kawhi Leonard.
“When you're playing a team that's as good as Golden State, you're going to get embarrassed if that's the way you come out, and we did,” Popovich told members of the media after the Warriors’ largest playoff win since 1948.
“I don't think they started the game with a belief. And it showed in the lack of edge, intensity, grunts, all that sort of thing,” Popovich continued. “That was disappointing.”
Unlike game 1, the Warriors had a focused intensity straight from the tip of game 2. Steph Curry scored 15 of his game high 29 points in the first quarter, connecting on 4-of-5 three-point attempts. The game was essentially over after the first period.
It’s difficult to quantify how many positives the Warriors can realistically take away from this game moving forward. One would think that the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard is like a mimosa without champagne, there are no bubbles and therefore no life. However this is the same Leonard-less Spurs squad that embarrassed the 55-win Houston Rockets in their own building in a playoff closeout game.
But when the Warriors are locked in like they were in game 2, there is no team in the league that stands a chance. Golden State shot 65% as a team in the first half, including 58% from deep. All 10 Warriors who played in the first two quarters scored, and only JaVale McGee failed to record an assist.
One of the many bright spots for Golden State in game 2 was the performance from 2nd round pick Patrick McCaw, who played 26 minutes in place of Andre Iguodala. McCaw scored 18 points of the bench — the most in a playoff game by any rookie since James Harden in 2010 — and added five assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Curry said that McCaw’s play will earn him more minutes moving forward, meaning we may see less of Iguodala, if at all, for the rest of the series. McCaw’s upside is extremely promising. He is instinctive on defense, understands spacing, possesses a smooth handle and can knock down an open jumper. Not to mention he is only 21 years of age.
What leaves Warrior fans to be most excited about McCaw is how he approaches the game on a day-to-day basis. Few rookies in history have the opportunity that McCaw has, which is to play with a historically great team stacked to the brim with some of the most skilled players in the league.
“For me as a basketball player, I take bits and pieces from everybody’s game,” McCaw told reporters after game 2. “I take stuff from Andre, I take stuff from Klay, I take stuff from Draymond. All the players on our team, I try to contribute to my own game. So, the way I play, I play as a team player. So, if you want to give me a comparison you can compare me to the whole team because I feel like I take a little bit of everybody's game and contribute to mine.”
Golden State improves to a perfect 10-0 record this postseason behind exceptional play from Steph Curry and Draymond Green, who are turning in the best post-season run of their careers.
Curry is resorting back to MVP form, averaging 28.6 points per game along with 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 10 playoff games. He is averaging post-season career-highs in field goal percentage (.489%), three-point percentage (.437%) and true shooting percentage (.672%) along with a career post-season low 2.9 turnovers per game.
But what is most frightening about Curry’s dominate playoff run has been his ability to get to the free-throw line at a rate of seven attempts per-game, the most in his career. As former GSoM’er Andy Liu of Warriors World stated best, Curry’s new found ability to incorporate James Harden-level foul schemes isn’t aesthetically pleasing basketball, but it makes an unstoppable offensive force completely unfair.
As for Green, he too is averaging career playoff-highs in just about every major statistical category, including assists (7.1 per game), steals (2.0 per game) and blocks (2.3 per game). Green is also putting up Curry-esc shooting percentages, averaging .489% from the field and .479% from three.
Although Kevin Durant is averaging career playoff-lows in points, rebounds and assists, he has turned in his most efficient post-season to date. Durant is shooting a career playoff-high .531% from the field on .643% true shooting.
Durant’s acquisition by the Warriors is having a positive ripple-effect on every player throughout the roster this post-season. By alleviating the pressure felt by Curry and Thompson to be the primary scorers, everybody on the roster in turn benefits by receiving higher-quality shots which results in a balanced hyper-efficient offensive attack.
Game 3 will be a telling sign in how the rest of the series will play out. Expect nothing less than a dog fight in San Antonio, where Golden State has had it’s troubles in the past. However 2017 has been a season like none other for the Warriors, which makes the results from teams of yesteryear irrelevant.
If Golden State plays on Saturday like they did in game 2, by making a statement and throwing the first punch, the Warriors could be looking at another lengthy break before the start of their next series.