So much for the Warriors being too distracted, fatigued, or whatever they supposedly were. The chase for 73 is still on … we think … after they beat the Spurs 112-101 to clinch the top seed in the NBA. The Spurs chose to play their best available players, and the Warriors responded with the kind of defensive effort that seemed commonplace last season, but has been a little too rare for comfort over the last few weeks.
The chicken-or-egg question from the Warriors’ perspective: Turnovers or Defense? Which one is lacking? Wait, defense and offensive caution have both been lacking. Which one is leading to the other? It’s easy to say turnovers have been the catalyst, but it might not be that simple. When the Warriors are playing uninspired defense, they feel the need to make it all back with the best pass the world has ever seen. That’s when snowballs turn into avalanches.
But that’s the prior storyline. The Warriors were at their dominant best on Thursday night. They turned the ball over, but they showed the Spurs’ true weakness in a season when they’ve been positively great themselves.
The Spurs don’t have the kind of offense that can consistently get good shots against strong defenses.
Their best one-on-one offensive player is Kawhi Leonard, unless LaMarcus Aldridge is feeling it. And he never feels it at Oracle.
It looked like Aldridge dislocated his pinkie in the first half, but he wasn’t playing that well to begin with. And it’s difficult to imagine that, if he couldn’t continue with his pinkie injured, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs medical staff would’ve let him return when the Warriors were up by double-digits.
But what about Boris Diaw? He’s been an annoying “little” problem for the Warriors, but he doesn’t seem like an unsolvable one. Even though Jared Sullinger seemed to do fairly well against Draymond Green a little bit ago, and both players have similar body types. Maybe we’ve figured out why Charles Barkley keeps downgrading the Warriors! He knows that he could’ve scored 30+ against them, because he had all the girth of Diaw and Sullinger and ten times the skill.
As for Thursday night’s game, the Warriors went back to their version of normal. They took a first quarter lead, expanded it with excellent offense in the second quarter, then stretched the lead to 20+ in the fourth quarter. Steph Curry told reporters after the loss in San Antonio that he should’ve driven to the basket more often, and drive he did. He flipped floaters, spun reverse layups, and after those stuck in the Spurs’ minds, he found enough room to make a few threes.
The MVP, in a sense
It’s pretty easy to see what Popovich is thinking when the starting lineups are on the floor. Attack Harrison Barnes on both ends. And Barnes was up to the task tonight, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also made three 3-pointers, and each one seemed like it was instrumental in keeping the Spurs at bay.
No wait, that’s not it … here’s the real MVP
Andrew Bogut is much younger than Tim Duncan, and that provides several advantages. He can jump and flush lobs with one hand, for instance. Duncan cannot. But that’s a matchup advantage the Warriors must exploit, especially with Bogut looking as spry as he has all season. Hey, if Popovich is going to put Duncan in that spot, the Warriors have to pounce. When Festus Ezeli is ready to contribute, he’ll do the same. But Bogut’s overall game on Thursday was the opposite of crap.
Ros: You’ve put together very strong performances the last couple of games, what’s clicking for you?
Bogut: I’m not playing like crap
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) April 8, 2016
(Curry shot 11-for-19, led all scorers with 27, and dished out 9 assists. Obviously the actual MVP was the true MVP tonight. But we’ve got to change things up from time to time.)
— Draymond Green seemed to know that he needed a technical foul, just to center himself. He was running around like a crazy person in the first few minutes of this game, not really helping at all and mostly hurting with bad passes and dumb fouls, then — knowing he needed five technical fouls to earn a suspension and the Warriors had only four games left — finally let loose when he disagreed with a foul call. After that, he rested a bit and came back as the same old do-everything, plus-minus demon we’ve gotten to know over the last couple years.
— The Warriors were pretty upset over the officiating, as a lot of light-touch fouls were called in the early stages. But that’s probably what the Warriors want, as Curry getting mugged with no punishment doesn’t help them at all.
— The San Francisco Giants were simply brilliant on offense today after a few innings of letting the Dodgers believe that they had the best pitching staff of all time. The noise at AT&T rivaled what we’ve been hearing at Oracle for weeks, with the bedlam that followed Hunter Pence’s grand slam shaking everything from Ocean Beach to Alameda.
— Meanwhile, the Giants and Warriors ruled the day while everyone ignored the fact that the A’s were playing in Oakland. That’s because the A’s are nearly anonymous, and unless they end up on one of their unreal midseason winning streaks, they won’t matter at all. Great job, Billy boy!
— Whether or not the Warriors win 73 is nothing other than a fun sideshow at this point. They’re going to prove that they’re one of the best teams in NBA history if they cut through a pretty strong set of potential playoff foes with minimal trouble. The Spurs will surely cause some unrest, but home court advantage is absolutely humongous to each team. The Warriors now have that, and every single player on their roster is healthy. For all the talk about strategic rest, they’re in a pretty damned good spot.