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Preview: What can the Spurs do about the Warriors’ defense?

The Warriors are up 1-0 after smothering the Spurs in Game 1. But what adjustments can the Spurs even make to turn that around?

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

The Golden State Warriors will host the San Antonio Spurs tonight at 7:30 p.m. PST with a 1-0 lead in their first round series of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

As of right now, it’s really difficult to see what adjustments the Spurs could make to turn things around after losing 113-92 in a game that actually looked way worse than its final score — two key lineup moves that Warriors coach Steve Kerr made completely confounded their opponent.

Last time: Warriors’ defensive pressure in Game 1

Plenty of people have cited the Spurs’ poor field goal percentage of 40% to summarize the Warriors’ defensive performance in Game 1, but it actually looks worse than that if you exclude the fourth quarter (which was largely garbage time).

Through the first three quarters, the Warriors held the Spurs to just 36.7% shooting from the field overall. And even that paltry number is inflated by unusually hot shooting from the 3-point line: the Spurs, who shot just 35.2% from the 3-point line during the regular season (26th in the league), shot 46.7% from the 3-point line through three quarters in Game 1. From inside the arc, they shot just 33.3% — the Warriors defense turned the Spurs inside out and completely stifled their already-struggling offense.

We can talk all you want about adjustments, but as long as the Warriors make LaMarcus Aldridge a glorified spot-up shooter, the Spurs just don’t have much in their arsenal to turn this around.

As you’ve probably read about by now, a major factor in the Warriors’ defensive performance was Kerr’s decision to not only start JaVale McGee at center but also start Andre Iguodala at point guard. Kerr described his reasoning as well as anyone else, as quoted by Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning,” Kerr said. “To re-establish our defense, which has been subpar. That’s the only way to have success in the playoffs.”

What to watch for: Will Kerr stick with the same rotation in Game 2?

Let’s be real though: nobody in their right mind expected JaVale McGee to play like that, even if you figured the Warriors would have little problem containing Aldridge. As Klay Thompson said after Game 1 in an article by Scott Ostler of the Chronicle, “He was just such a great presence at the rim on offense and defense, disrupting shots as well as finishing shots.” Thompson pretty much narrated what you see around the rim in that shot chart above — the Spurs shot just 4-for-16 around the rim through the first three quarters; although it’s fair to say some of that was just missed layups, most of those shots were well-contested and McGee was part of that.

So McGee more than earned his starting spot in Game 2, even if it would be unrealistic to expect him to so thoroughly neutralizd Aldridge again -- his presence at the rim was huge in this series.

Even more surprising, though, was the decision to start Iguodala instead of Quinn Cook, who had been filling in at point guard in injured star Stephen Curry’s absence. However, the move was not exactly a surprise to Iguodala himself — as reported by Monte Poole — and assistant coach Mike Brown is the one who deserves credit for that move.

Brown actually approached Kerr a couple weeks ago with the idea of starting Iguodala. Kerr bought it. He went with what he knows and, given the results, he’s likely to stay with this curveball of a move.

Iguodala knew it was coming, despite joking that he learned 30 minutes before the game.

The element of surprise was probably some factor in what threw the Spurs off in terms of how they planned to run their offense, but in the end they just didn’t have enough firepower as Manu Ginobili readily admits.

Injury news: We can all stop wondering about Kawhi Leonard returning

The Warriors will have the same players available for Game 2 and, for now, we can assume that Andre Iguodala will start again despite a thigh contusion.

But the biggest injury news is probably something that we could’ve easily assumed anyway: Kawhi Leonard will not play for the Spurs this postseason, as reported by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. GSoM community member belilaugh had an interesting take on that in the comments yesterday.

As remote a possibility as Leonard’s return for this series was, it was probably the most significant wild card the Spurs had in this series. Seems hard to imagine them turning things around otherwise.

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