Entering the first round against the San Antonio Spurs is just the first step in what will hopefully be an extended playoff battle so we did a roundtable about it.
You can read part one of our writers roundtable here, where we discuss the broader implications of our seeding. In part two, we dig into the matchup against the Spurs specifically, and conclude with our predictions for the series.
Now, in regards to this first round against the Spurs: what’s a key matchup or stat for fans to watch for?
Here's how the Spurs matched up defensively against the Warriors during their regular-season series. Kyle Anderson spent the most time on Kevin Durant, serving as the primary defender on over half of KD's offensive possessions. pic.twitter.com/QtDM3p5Cru— Positive Residual (@presidual) April 13, 2018
Ivan: Key stat: Pace. The Spurs, eternally long of tooth, are 28th in pace on the season; Ginobili, Parker, and Gasol may be touched by warlocks, but if the Warriors can control tempo, the Spurs’ lack of dynamism and young legs should doom them. That said, GSW has a harder time generating good shots in transition without Steph, and their predictable Durant-oriented offense will be easier for Popovich to slow down.
Patrick: I think it comes down to Kevin Durant versus whoever the Spurs try to stop him with. Weirdly at times he’s struggled a bit with Kyle Anderson, but this is his time now. If the Warriors are going to really flip that switch they need to look a lot more like the version from December when Steph Curry was out, than the version that limped through the last couple of weeks.
Durant is the key. If he’s fired up, locked in, and playing good team ball at both ends, I really don’t think the Spurs have anyone who can keep up.
Here's how the Warriors matched up defensively against the Spurs in 2017-18. I highlight one key matchup in this @NylonCalculus playoff preview -- a collaboration with @AcrossTheCourt, @HickoryHigh, and @JacobEGoldstein: https://t.co/fGLMO9lXBy pic.twitter.com/YbU1PYhR69— Positive Residual (@presidual) April 13, 2018
Tom: Two things come to mind: turnovers and offensive rebounds. The Spurs do not boast a particularly intimidating offense this season (owing, of course, to Leonard’s prolonged absence). But if the Warriors give the Spurs multiple opportunites to score, either by turning the ball over or by allowing them to get offensive rebounds, they’ll have a better chance to keep up with the Warriors more-formidable offense.
Though the Spurs aren’t quite as equipped to take advantage of this like other teams (see: the Thunder), they do rank in the top 10 in terms of offensive rebounds per game and play with a discipline that allows them to take advatage of a team’s miscues.
Apricot: I think the key is if GSW can play its switching defense with discipline and single-cover LaMarcus Aldridge, then GSW can probably out-grind the SAS through the power of Durant shotmaking. GSW will likely throw a mix of looks at Aldridge, and then send Draymond at him for crunch time. During the season, Draymond showed he could do a respectable job.
Brady: The Warriors were one of the fastest teams in the league, while the Spurs were one of the slowest. A fast pace isn’t inherently good - the Suns were second in the league - but it does present an opportunity for mismatches. LaMarcus Aldridge will struggle to get up and down the court if Draymond Green is pushing, and Pau Gasol has no chance against Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney, or JaVale McGee if those three decide to put on their jets.
Gregg Popovich is always shy to play smaller lineups, even in the playoffs.If the Spurs can dictate the pace, they can give the Warriors fits; but if the Dubs control the pace, they’ll run San Antonio off the court.
Nate: To keep it simple, eFG% is a stat that stands out for many of the reasons mentioned above. Not only do the Spurs play at a slower pace, but they (27th) shoot threes at a considerably lower rate than the Warriors (15th). If the Warriors play at their regular pace and shoot even average from beyond the arc, the Spurs will have a difficult task in front of them to keep up.
Which old man bench unit is better? The Warriors have: Livingston, Iguodala, and David West; the Spurs have a bunch of future hall-of-famers in Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, and Rudy Gay.
Daniel: Manu scares the hell out of me; there’s nothing he hasn’t conquered in his 300 year career. Also, he, Karl Malone, and Lebron James have proven that “Bald Spot” hoopers have a terrifying rage to their games. Any man who doesn’t care about looking like the “before” guy in a Rogaine commercial in front of millions of people on live television is extremely dangerous.
But, Nick Young aka “Swaggy P” is going to win us a game this series with unconscious shooting, mark my words. He may also Crip Walk after every three pointer he makes. Advantage: Dubs bench.
Patrick: I have nothing but respect for old man Manu, still doing it at 40 years old. But beyond that I’m not really feeling the Spurs depth as much. Andre Iguodala will be a key player for us, and I fully expect him to show up at important points this post-season, but West is the x-factor off the bench for me in this series. If he plays like he did in the first half of the season, then along with Draymond Green we can put a reliable big man on the floor 48 minutes a night. Against the likes of Aldridge and Gasol we’ll need that.
Tom: I ride with David West. Thus I ride with the Warriors bench.
Apricot: Well, that’s 5 against 3 so Spurs win. West has been fading, Shaun has been up and down, and Andre looks re-freshed, but who can tell with that guy?
Brady: Manu Ginobili may be the most entertaining player in this grouping, but the Warriors clearly have the better unit. Livingston and Iguodala can get up and down the court, and the Warriors grouping is, across the board, far better defensively.
Greg: If this was a 3 v 3 game in NBA Street volume 2 I am for sure taking the Warriors trio as I think Iguodala is going to release a game breaker over Pau Gasol. Iguodala can still jump out of the gym. Springy Iggy will be ready to go game 1!
Nate: Depends on the injury question in this series that everyone is talking about: Is Patrick McCaw going to play?
Who (or what) are the X-factors for this series - both for us, and the Spurs?
Daniel: For us, it’s Quinn Cook. If he can make sharp decisions against a Spurs defense geared to stop KD and Klay, Popovich’s game plan will fall apart. For them, it’s Dejounte Murray. The Spurs desperately need him to use his youth, length, and athleticism to disrupt the Warriors.
Patrick: I’ll take the obvious one - Kawhi Leonard. Is he coming back? If he does, is he anything more than a rusty shell? I doubt that he plays at this point, but if he’s out there it changes the calculus.
Tom: The Warriors will need Shaun Livingston to be a consistent contributor against the Spurs. With Curry out, they are very thin at the point guard position. They’ll need Livingston to be playing well coming off of the bench (he scored nine points in the March 8th game against the Spurs when Curry got injured early in the first quarter). If the Spurs are going to make things interesting against the Warriors, they’re going to need Kyle Anderson to play well. Anderson played well against the Warriors this season and they’ll need more of that in this first-round series.
Brady: Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ll spend a lot of time matched up against each other. Green is the better player, but Aldridge has had the better year. Can Green make Aldridge look like a dinosaur by running up and down the court, and can he leverage him off the post and into a bevy of fadeaways? Or will Aldridge’s footwork and persistence work down Green in what has been a (relatively) down defensive year?
Greg: I originally had Quinn Cook as the key X-factor but looking at the lineup, I think Kevon Looney will have a bigger impact than anticipated. It is going to come from someone we least expect. He has come on strong late in the season.
Okay, let’s lay it out - what’s your prediction for the series?
Last year we gave them the broom, but this is a whole new year. Let’s step it up, do it bigger, better, and bless them with the Swiffer. Warriors in 4.
Patrick: I’m a gentleman. So Dubs in 5.
Tom: As I have nothing but respect for Popovich and the Spurs organization (and worry about flying too close to the sun on wings made of overconfident predictions), I’ll say... Warriors in five (but if you told me the Spurs pushed it to six, I would not be shocked).
Brady: This series will be a little ugly, as the Spurs will try to slow it down, and the Warriors will struggle to find their rhythm. Still, Golden State is simply the better team, and it’s not close. Dubs in five.
Nate: I lean in the same direction as Tom — I don’t want to tempt fate with an overly bold prediction and wouldn’t be surprised if this goes six. But I’m going to say Dubs in five.