That was a heck of a regular season game between the Warriors and Spurs on Saturday night. In the end, San Antonio got it done, beating the Warriors 87-79, but more important than the win itself for the Spurs is the tangible evidence that they can now beat the Warriors. Sure they believed it coming in, but now they know it and have proof.
Of course, the Spurs were at full strength, and the Warriors were missing Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli, but Golden State had lost only a half-dozen games coming in. You take any sliver of hope you can get against them. And the last two wins by Golden State were blowout wins. So the Spurs may have needed a little something to hold onto — even if they’d never admit it.
It wasn’t a game in which both teams are going to say they played well in, but it was a game both teams competed awfully hard in. Here are some quick thoughts about this one:
—The Spurs did a terrific job of running Stephen Curry – and Klay Thompson — off the 3-point line and rushing him just a hair when he did seem to have a split-second. Yes, Curry made the necessary adjustment and started penetrating more, where he found a lot of open terrain and room to finish at the rim.
But it takes more effort to drive and finish than it does to knock down 3s, and it’s clear one of the Spurs’ overall defensive philosophies was to contest the heck out of the 3s, even if it comes at the expense of some pretty easy twos.
What ended up happening was that for the most part Curry and Thompson took some tough long-distance shots. Are they shots that they’ll make more of usually? Yes, but when Curry and Thompson combined to go 2-for-19 from 3-point range one night after they go 16-for-27 from 3-point range the night before, you know defense has something to do with it. OK, and fatigue.
And the fact that Bogut and Iguodala didn’t play. While their absence probably affected the team’s defense and rebounding, it also affected the team’s passing. It’s no surprise that Curry and Thompson would get tougher 3-point looks when two of the team’s best passers weren’t playing.
Heck, I never thought you could hold the Warriors to 79 points. Was it a fluke? Perhaps. But at least the Spurs know they can do it — hold Golden State to that kind of point total.
–One of the only ways you’re going to beat the Warriors is if you win some individual matchups against their core three: Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. On Saturday, LaMarcus Aldridge was the player who won a matchup against Green. Aldridge was swallowed up in the first game between the two teams, going just 2-for-9 from the floor. But remember, in that game Andrew Bogut played and few can clog a lane like him.
Aldridge finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, which I wasn’t sure he had in him. Now that he’s got one in him, does he have two? Or more important, does he have four or five, which is what it might take to beat the Warriors in series.
–Not saying Manu Ginobili won’t have good moments or good games against the Warriors, just that they’re not quite as frequent as they used to be. Ginobili was always the type of player who would make big plays against the Warriors. But that was a little while ago. It feels like Ginobili’s moments of greatness are now less and less frequent.
He used to be talented enough and athletic enough so that most of the chances he took – and he’s a risky player – would pay off in the end. But now, a few years older and a step slower, those aggressive plays are paying off less and less, particularly against a team as good defensively as the Warriors. Yep, he had nine points in 18 minutes and made a couple of 3s, but he turned the ball over three times and isn’t nearly dangerous as he once was.
—I realize the Warriors are going to score more often than not when they attack Tony Parker in the low post with either Thompson or Harrison Barnes, but that still doesn’t seem to be the worst thing in the world for San Antonio. It’s no secret, Parker is going to struggle down there against those guys. But still, in a crazy kind of way, it encourages the Warriors into isolation and for the most part ensures that they’re only going to come away with two points rather than a possible 3.
At the very least, it slows the game up just a little for the Spurs, which may not be a bad thing. Now, on a night when the Warriors shot the 3-pointer as poorly as they did – 9-for-36 – it may not matter how well or poorly the Warriors post up Parker – or Patty Mills for that matter. But even if the Warriors were shooting it well, the Spurs are probably OK with Golden State force-feeding that option.