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Analysis: Cold-shooting Warriors can’t get the sweep, lose 103-90 to Spurs

Kevin Durant’s 34 points and Draymond Green’s near-triple-double weren’t enough to give the Warriors a Game 4 victory.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs-Game Four Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Warriors came into Sunday afternoon’s game with the San Antonio Spurs looking to complete the sweep and move on to the second round to face the New Orleans Pelicans. The Spurs, unfortunately, were not willing to oblige and defeated the Warriors 103-90 to stave off playoff elimination. The Spurs led for the entire game and were able to fend off a furious Warriors comeback attempt in the final quarter to get the victory.

The tables turned for one afternoon

Watching this game, one would be excused for thinking that the Spurs and Warriors had swapped uniforms. The Spurs played a very Warriors-like game on Sunday, going 15 for 28 from three-point range. For a team that was near the bottom of the league in three-point field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal attempts, it was a bit of an anomaly. Dejounte Murray, who the Warriors had been daring to shoot three-pointers, went three-for-four from long distance to burn them.

It was one of those games where everything the Spurs put up, no matter how good the Warriors defense was, would find its way in.

The Warriors, meanwhile, looked like the team that couldn’t make any outside shots as they shot 25% from long distance against the Spurs. It was a particularly rough game for Klay Thompson, who scored just 12 points and shot 33% from three-point range as he cooled off considerably from his hot start to the series.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs-Game Four
Klay Thompson had a game to forget on Sunday afternoon against the Spurs
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

That said, the Warriors did best the Spurs in something they normally do well—offensive rebounding. The Warriors had 24 offensive rebounds compared to the Spurs’ paltry 7. This edge on the offensive glass allowed the Warriors to attempt nine more field goals than the Spurs, which is especially remarkably when you note that the Warriors also turned it over 16 times on Sunday (old habits die hard).

The problem was that the Warriors were unable to capitalize on those extra shot attempts. As rough as their three-point shooting was, their shooting overall was not much better as they went 37.8% from the field. So if you want the clearest reason why the Warriors lost this game, I’d recommend starting right there.

Durant and Draymond (almost) do it all

While the Warriors looked sluggish and uninspired for the bulk of Sunday afternoon’s game, two players who pushed hard to get the team the win were Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.

Both Warriors forwards played hard in Sunday’s loss and did their best to steal the Warriors a victory. Durant led all scorers with 34 points while also grabbing 13 rebounds. With Thompson struggling, Durant was the only Warriors player who could get his own shot (which showed as he attempted 28 field goals).

While Durant was the Warriors’ offense, Green did... basically everything else. Green finished the game with 9 points, 18 rebounds (including 13 alone in the first half) and 9 assists, while also playing tenacious defense throughout the afternoon. Here is one of Green’s nine assists, in which he finds Thompson for an open three-pointer that he, mercifully, made.

Even though Durant and Green were playing at a high level and trying to will their team to a win, they just couldn’t put them over the top. Whenever the Warriors cut into the deficit, the Spurs would proceed to go on a run to put some distance between the two teams. The Warriors could get close, especially after a first half in which they played quite poorly, but they couldn’t quite break through to get the win.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs
Kevin Durant’s 34 points weren’t enough to get the Warriors a victory and end their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs.
John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

While this was certainly a team win for the Spurs (as five Spurs scored in double figures) and it was LaMarcus Aldridge who led the home team in scoring with 22 points, the star of Sunday afternoon was Manu Ginobili. Playing in what could be his final game in San Antonio, the veteran Argentinian tallied 16 points as well as 5 assists in the Spurs’ victory.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs
On Sunday afternoon, vintage Manu Ginobili was in the building as the Spurs avoided a sweep at the hands of the Warriors.
John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

When a legendary veteran like Ginobili has a game like that, sometimes you just have to tip your (metaphorical) cap to him and say it was his day.

More quality minutes from Looney

For the second straight game, Kevon Looney was impressive as the first big man off of the bench in Steve Kerr’s rotation. While JaVale McGee was very effective in the first two games, he’s become a bit more of a liability as the series has gone on, particularly on defense.

Looney, however, has played great defense in this series, especially in Game 4. Looney was able to stay in front of quicker and shiftier Spurs players like Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Patty Mills.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs
Once again, Kevon Looney gave the Warriors good big-man minutes off of the bench.
John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

To be certain, Looney isn’t the offensive finisher that McGee is, but his steady defensive play more than makes up for that. Looney also pulled down five offensive rebounds against the Spurs, playing a big role in getting the Warriors extra possessions and shots attempts (that they did not capitalize on).

But it was another high quality performance from Looney, albeit one in a loss, which reflects that the young big man might very well have a future in this league.

In conclusion

Between the abnormally poor Warriors shooting and the surprisingly good offensive performance from the Spurs, coupled with Ginobili turning in a classic performance, it’s hard to not just see this as the Warriors having a bad or unlucky game. This is something that The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami addressed in a tweet after the game:

Between the 73-9 season in 2016 and the 16-1 postseason in 2017, Warriors fans have gotten used to expecting the incredibly hard to do. Thus it’s good to remember that great teams, championship-winning teams, drop games in the postseason. For example, the 2014 Spurs were pushed to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs.

Yes, it’s never ideal to lose a game (especially when the other team is resting and waiting) and you want to wrap things up as quickly as possible. But this is certainly not a game and performance that should dramatically affect our expectations of this Warriors team.

The Warriors will try to close out the series again as the scene shifts back to Oracle Arena for Game 5 on Tuesday night.


Who was the Warrior Wonder for Game 4 against the Spurs?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Kevin Durant
    (92 votes)
  • 21%
    Draymond Green
    (32 votes)
  • 1%
    JaVale McGee
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Klay Thompson
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Andre Iguodala
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Kevon Looney
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Shaun Livingston
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    David West
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Quinn Cook
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    Nick Young
    (5 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now