“It was like men and boys out there tonight. As far as the toughness and aggressiveness was concerned. In every facet of the game”
Gregg Popovich, always one for sarcasm, quips and a certain dry sense of humor that would make even Steven Wright jealous, was far from it after the aforementioned statement was made following the Spurs’ 120-90 loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
His postgame media session lasted no more than two minutes, as he showed himself out with a simple “have a good night” to those wanting to hear an explanation as to why his team failed to compete in statistically, the best regular season matchup the league has ever seen.
“Men and boys” has been a common theme for the Warriors this season. At 41-4, most teams have looked like inferior, often hopeless competitors as Golden State proceeds with their usual shellacking. Versatility at multiple positions, shooting, depth and — once again — coaching have given the league its most treacherous monster since Michael Jordan was gracing hardwoods across the country.
But, if there was one game that shouldn’t have been lopsided, a game that would have the Warriors fighting for league supremacy, it was Tuesday. The Spurs, dominant to many and enemies to all, were he one team the Warriors have yet to conquer. Multiple Hall-of-Famers, the best coach in the league and a newfound chip on their shoulder of not being the team to beat had Tuesday as the matchup of the season.
Instead, we got what NBA fans have become so accustomed to seeing when watching a game at Oracle Arena: an early lead started by the Warriors’ suffocating defense, assists from a multitude of willing passers, sharp cuts, tough screens and the best player in the world making his presence known once again on the biggest stage.
The dominant performance began soon after tip, as the Warriors had a perfect counter to anything the Spurs could do. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio’s costly offseason acquisition, turned practically unusable once guarded by Draymond Green, who the larger Aldridge failed to back down in the post or find any rhythm against. The result: 2/9 shooting, 3 points, 5 rebounds and a game-worst -20 in 25 minutes.
The Spurs were without Tim Duncan, who would’ve been useful on both ends with his sharp passing in the high-post, craftiness around the rim and high basketball IQ,. Instead, David West got the nod, who was one of the more productive Spurs of the night, but with 12 points in under 20 minutes, wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the lack of production from others.
The Warriors not only made the Spurs look old, but they made them look overmatched and frankly, lost. With 8 first quarter turnovers, the Spurs did the one thing the Warriors love to take advantage of: running and creating points off turnovers. Defense leads to quality offense, and the way the Warriors were exploiting and attacking the passing lanes – against a team known for their passing skills – the opportunities were there to create the early lead.
“We’re a pretty cocky group,” Kerr said after the game. “They are. In a good way, though. They corral that arrogance. And they believe. They believe they’re going to win. Sometimes that hurts us if we’re not focused, when we start trying to do crazy things. But when we’re locked in and focused and making smart decisions, then that confidence is a big help to us.”
That confidence has propelled the Warriors into legendary discussions, most notably being the team poised to challenge the 1995-96 Bulls’ 72-10 regular season record. It also lends them to being the most fun team to watch in the league, with their best player being their most jaw-dropping: Curry had 37 points in 29 minutes on Tuesday, sitting out another fourth quarter after earlier trickeries and hop steps led to a huge Warriors lead.
The Spurs threw multiple bodies at Curry, starting off with Danny Green, shifting to Tony Parker and eventually, the matchup all basketball fans were looking forward to: Kawhi Leonard shadowing the MVP. It turned out to be little match at all, as Leonard failed to keep up with Curry’s quickness or bother him physically enough to get him out of rhythm.
Despite the obvious struggles of Harrison Barnes and Leandro Barbosa (3/12 from the field), the team’s oozing confidence has helped players such as Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush immensely. Both are finally healthy and producing on a consistent basis after previous injuries have hindered them. Livingston didn’t miss in 6 attempts and Rush had 13 points of his own as the bench totaled 53 points on the night.
In a seven-day span that saw Golden State beat down the likes of Cleveland, Chicago and Indiana by a combined 77 points, the Warriors wrapped up their week with a thrashing of the very franchise their ownership, management, coach and players have idolized for years. The Spurs have been the model of consistent success for decades, but the pupil is now nearing the teacher, and the narrative that the Spurs are the standard is beginning to be dispelled.
When Kerr was asked about beating his old friend Popovich: “I love Pop, that’s my guy. But I don’t feel that bad right now.”
Neither do the Warriors, Steve.