Welcome to Warriors Weekly after another clash of the titans.
The Week that Was:
Leaving the Spurs game aside, the Warriors did a nice job taking care of business. They dispatched the inferior Pelicans and Knicks without a ton of drama and an insane shooting performance propelled them over the Mavericks.
The Spurs game will be discussed below but the biggest takeaway of the week in terms of the regular season and Golden State’s pursuit of history was not in that game: it is Andrew Bogut missing time due to a toe injury. While an injury to a top player makes winning harder by itself, it also puts a team in a more precarious position if any subsequent problems happen before they return. Facing talented opponents without all three of Iguodala, Bogut and Ezeli will be tough. Fortunately for the Warriors, they have a somewhat light schedule the next few weeks, which may be enough time to get close to whole. Regardless, it seems like players, coaches and fans are on the same page that winning a title is more important so if these issues linger and prevent 72-10, they do. Not much can be done about it.
Crazy Warriors Stat of the Week:
Stephen Curry is now tied with Nick Van Exel for 23rd all-time with 1528 made threes in a career. NVE played 28,969 NBA minutes while Curry has played 16,792, about 58% of his total.
Next on the list: Tim Hardaway at 1542.
The Soapbox: Reviewing the Spurs Game
Figuring out takeaways from a single game are hard enough but it gets substantially tougher when that occasion is non-representative of what a potential series will look like. In the case of Saturday’s game, that comes in both personnel and tactics. After all, if Bogut, Iguodala and Ezeli are out in a potential series against the Spurs, the Warriors probably lose. They need those guys. Both Pop and Kerr also held most of their wrinkles back on the expectation that they will play more meaningful contests in the future.
This game did have some notable developments, though. The most surprising was that Pop gave Danny Green some minutes on Curry. San Antonio’s best on-ball defender spent much of the first game on Klay and other perimeter players (though he did defend Steph for stretches then) but the endgame always involved him defending Curry in some iteration. Unsurprisingly, Green did a very good job. He is big – 6’6.5” with a 6’10” wingspan – and moves well for his size, arguably the best combination against the MVP. The Warriors did not do a ton of the most common countermeasure for that while Green was on him (screening and trying to force a switch) but in a playoff series that would separate the two more often.
San Antonio also did a nice job running Golden State off good shots at the three-point line. Most of the time in professional basketball, how well an opponent shoots from three is largely outside the defensive team’s control but how many threes they shoot can be affected through planning, effort and execution. Unsurprisingly, the Spurs allow the least threes in the league and while the Warriors attempted more of them than usual (36 vs. 31.2), they were meaningfully worse than their usual assortment. More contested, later in the clock, etc. That kind of focus opens up different avenues offensively and if the Spurs try that in a playoff series Steph and Klay have to be ready to create off drives and generate looks that way for themselves and the other Warriors on the floor.
Beyond those two areas of interest, most of the rest followed to form considering the players that were available. Pop bringing Tim Duncan off the bench and only playing him eight minutes was a surprise but that could be another example of gamesmanship from a coach famous for it. Either way, it was interesting. If the Warriors play Duncan off the floor in later games, they have to be ready to exploit San Antonio’s lack of rim protection through drives and drawing fouls. Defensively, adding Iguodala and Bogut will cure much of what ails the team but it was encouraging to see them force so many turnovers because they provide a buffer of scuttled possessions on one end and easy baskets on the other that can help them survive rough shooting nights.
The biggest takeaway for Warriors fans from Saturday’s game is something they should have known already: the Spurs are an incredibly good team and a worthy adversary for the Warriors. Both teams need to be at full strength and the top of their game to beat one of the best squads of all-time in a seven game series.
The Week to Come:
After the pressure of last week, the Warriors largely get a chance to settle down, though there are big games.
The week starts with a road game in Minnesota against a competitive but not good enough (yet) Wolves team. Karl-Anthony Towns could have a big night against a narrower big man rotation but that should not be enough to beat the Warriors, especially if they play with some intensity after Saturday’s loss.
From there, the team returns home for four games, three of them coming this week. It starts out with the final game of the regular season against the Clippers. Blake Griffin is still out, though it appears the bigger issue presently is his quad, which was injured before he broke his hand. After that, Griffin will still have to miss four games due to suspension so it is getting closer to LA having to integrate him in the playoffs rather than before.
The Warriors beat Dallas exactly a week before the rematch and the Mavericks will be coming off consecutive games against the Blazers, which are much more important to their playoff hopes. Finally, the Dubs face the Sixers and a loss there might even be more shocking than one to the Suns like “almost” happened nine days ago.
Being without Iguodala and Ezeli makes more manageable games challenging and missing Bogut creates even more problems with the rotation. That said, I am expecting 4-0 even though they could lose the home streak to either the Clippers or Mavs with this depleted a roster.