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Three Game One reflections on the Warriors piledriving the Spurs

In the face of much scrutiny and doubt, the champs utilize their All-Stars, deep roster, and home court advantage to throttle San Antonio’s crumbling dynasty in Game One

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made an offhand comment on one of ESPN’s talking head shows, “The Jump”, regarding his team’s lackluster finish to the regular season:

Oh, I think their focus will be great. I think part of the problem the last month is that we’ve been locked into the 2 seed. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of injuries, but the games have not been meaningful, and our play and our focus reflected that. The games are about to get extremely meaningful, as we know. I know our guys, I know how competitive they are, I know how talented they are. so I expect things to turn around pretty quickly for us in the first round.

Now, I’m no fancy, shmancy, big-city psychologist, but please humor me as I attempt to pick up what our ball coach is puttin’ down.

So, you’re saying the champ’s focus and energy level plummeted after the games became meaningless? And they will actually give a damn and return to their PROVEN CHAMPIONSHIP WAYS once the postseason starts? Just like (snaps fingers) that? Cooool!

This calm reflection on the Warriors’ regular season from their master strategist was a direct rebuttal to the deluge of fear-mongering and nonsensical takes leading up to the playoffs.

After slowly picking up members once the Houston Rockets ran away with the #1 seed, the “this just ain’t the Warriors year/there is no switch” reverse-bandwagon reached near capacity during the first two weeks of April.

I couldn’t believe it. My thoughts at the time: how do you write off a team with three All-Stars in their prime, a deep roster, and a tremendous home court advantage before the playoffs even start?

In Game 1 of the Warriors’ actual title defense, it would appear that the demise of the Golden Empire has been grossly exaggerated. The world champions showed a brief glimpse of their true power as they vaporized the San Antonio Spurs 113-92. And whaddya know, it was fueled by their All-Stars, roster depth, and a wild home crowd. Let’s take a deeper look at how those crucial factors fueled the Warriors fifth straight playoff win over the Spurs.

Golden State’s Talented Three Terrorize Spurs

This season’s Spurs were designed to orbit around the All-Star duo of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. With a reportedly healthy Leonard seemingly uninterested in playing for the Spurs for some reason, San Antonio is reduced to praying Aldridge can carry them. Clearly, the Spurs are running low on All-Stars in their prime.

The Warriors are fortunate enough to avoid that situation. In the two-time MVP Stephen Curry’s absence, the three current Olympians came together and cooked the Spurs with hot fish grease. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant were sharp, unselfish, and defensively alert. Green (12 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists) and Durant (24 points, 8 ebounds, 7 assists) flirted with triple-doubles while Thompson drilled jumpers from as far as the Coliseum Bart station.

Here’s a highlight of “The Android” getting busy against those hapless defenders:

Oops, try this one.

27 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field, 5-of-6 from the arc, and one random technical foul from Thompson were too much for San Antonio. Poor Patty Mills: the 6-foot, plucky Spurs guard kept desperately chasing Thompson around the physical screens the Warriors were dishing. Mills is too slow to close the gap to keep Thompson from clean catches, and too small to bother the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter from launching with that quick release. #bbqchicken

We can’t underestimate the luxury of having three young, battle-tested, superstars on the roster in Curry’s absence. Their roles interlock with each other with little to no redundancy, allowing each All-Star to operate where they are comfortable. In the hyped playoff atmosphere, they have no problem elevating their games and humiliating their opponents. When they are playing off of each other as seamlessly as they did Saturday, they raise the degree of difficulty versus the Warriors to the stratosphere.

What goes deeper, Strength In Numbers or a submarine?

GM Bob Myers deserves a ton of credit for ensuring that the team is not too top-heavy. Although the rest of the rotation players may not be as intimidating as the big guns are, they know their roles and fulfill them with gusto.

For this game, Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee were lifted from their reserve roles and named starters. This must have been a sweet moment for the two former Denver Nuggets teammates. Iguodala became the nominal point guard, a move that certainly stunned me.

The Warriors’ defensive strategy was to dig down on Aldridge’s post ups, swipe at the ball like feral cats, and make him uncomfortable. Once he panicked and passed the rock, the Warriors scrambled like mad to cut off the other Spurs when the ball rotated to them. With Iguodala on the floor, the team had very few hiccups in locating defensive responsibilities and applying pressure.

Iguodala’s length turned the Warriors starting squad into a jumbo lineup that stonewalled the Spurs into 17 points in the first quarter, setting the defensive tone for the rest of the game. The Warriors would finish with a 19 to 11 advantage in points scored off turnovers, an important category to win against a team as starved for offense as San Antonio.

Speaking of the defensive tone, it was quite a joy watching McGee fluster Aldridge on that end. McGee was active protecting the rim, and was rewarded by his teammates with offensive opportunities at the other basket.

Let’s compare the stats between the two giants:

Lamarcus Aldridge: 14 points, 5-of-12 shooting, 2 rebounds, and 1 block in 24 minutes

Javale McGee: 15 points, 5-of-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 16 minutes.

You gotta be kidding me.

Something about McGee’s length and bounce really bothers these Spurs in spurts. Remember, McGee already beat up on the Spurs in Game 3 last year in the Western Conference finals, too.

I can’t forget to mention Shaun Livingston was back to his usual spry self, terrorizing smaller guards in the post for 11 points and 5 rebounds. It’s amazing how our “old, washed up” players turn into assassins when the games matter most.

Roaracle lifts the Dubs energy up

The Roaracle effect is real folks. When the NBA Players Association voted Oakland as having the top home court advantage last year, they effectively admitted that stepping into Oracle Arena is like being trapped in a rocking asylum. The asylum seems quite comfortable for Nick Young, though.

The crowd was frenzied from the opening tip, and their energy ignited the Dubs into the sustained, swarming, defensive effort that we haven’t seen in weeks. DubNation went ballistic for Thompson’s shooting and McGee’s defense, but I knew the fans were locked in when they began shrieking for deflections and good passes.

The Warriors were darting around the court like birds-of-prey; at times it seemed like there were two extra players in white jerseys out there. The fans’ electric support invigorated the home team to wipe the Spurs out with frenetic defense and creative offense: two telltale symptoms of weaponized joy.

When the crowd broke into the trolling, sing-songy “Waaarriors” chant late in the third over a jumpball, the Spurs’ wearied expressions told me they were already looking ahead to Game 2.

Moving On

For the record, I called a Warriors sweep in our GSoM roundtable a couple days ago. After Game 1, I think I’m gonna stick with that prediction. However, I expect the Spurs to make some adjustments and push back harder in Game 2. Even still, where are they going to get their offense from?

In the meantime, let’s hear Draymond address the doubters personally.

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder in the opening game of the 2018 playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Javale McGee
    (1015 votes)
  • 25%
    Klay Thompson
    (389 votes)
  • 2%
    Kevin Durant
    (41 votes)
  • 1%
    Draymond Green
    (16 votes)
  • 3%
    Andre Iguodala
    (59 votes)
  • 0%
    Shaun Livingston
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    David West
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Quinn Cook
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Kevon Looney
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please add in the comments)
    (5 votes)
1546 votes total Vote Now