Admit it. You expected the Warriors to fall behind by 15 in the second quarter and pull their starters. Wait, that was just me? I probably should’ve learned my lesson after the last year and a half. Yet, I figured if they were going to lie down and let a team steamroll them, in effect Kevorkianing themselves for the greater good, tonight would be the night.
- No Andre Iguodala to serve as the team’s best perimeter defender and one of their best playmakers
- No Andrew Bogut to set screens for Steph Curry, direct traffic for the wings on offense, deter layups/putbacks, and grab defensive boards
- No Festus Ezeli … well, the Warriors are used to no Festus Ezeli
- Back-to-back games in Texas
- Six games in nine nights
Instead, they played their asses off. In fact, the Warriors briefly held the lead in the fourth quarter of one of the grimiest, turn-back-the-clockiest games they’ve played all season. All credit goes to the Spurs for making that happen. Curry has bludgeoned opponents without a “full squad” in the past, and San Antonio’s team defense was outstanding. When the Warriors scored 18 points in the first quarter, the tone was set. Curry wasn’t going to get open … well, behind the three-point line, at least (he went 1-for-12). The Spurs are the best team at defending the three. They didn’t show it when they came to Oakland in January, but they made up for that momentary lapse on Saturday night to improve their *regular season* home court winning streak to 44 games.
The Warriors lost 87-79, but what did they really lose?
They haven’t lost their chance at 73-9. In fact, tonight only makes the rest of the season more interesting for Golden State fans, now that the Warriors are only three games ahead of San Antonio and they need to push a little harder to break the Bulls’ record. Anyone think they’re incapable of going 11-2 in their last 13 games?
The Spurs didn’t beat the same Warriors team they’d face in the playoffs (unless disaster strikes for Golden State), and Tim Duncan — who missed the game on Jan. 25 — had no impact on tonight’s contest. Duncan started the game on the bench (to be fair, he probably would’ve started if Bogut played) and finished with 1 point, 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers in 8 minutes.
An exhausted, shorthanded Warriors team almost ended two Spurs streaks tonight. And while the one that gets mentioned all the time is fun, since we get to remember all the way back to 1997, when Bimbo Coles was a Warrior and Gregg Popovich took over a terrible Spurs team, the current Warriors don’t care about that streak because they already beat the Spurs on the road … three seasons ago … in the playoffs. And they should’ve beat them twice in that series.
The Spurs will rejoice, and not just because they’re the first upper-echelon team to beat the Warriors this year.
LaMarcus Aldridge went from 5 points on 2-of-9 shooting and 3 rebounds in the 30-point loss, to 11-for-25 and a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds tonight. Hey, good for him. One narrative from their first matchup — other than total annihilation — was Draymond Green completely removing Aldridge from the game, but that wasn’t 100% accurate. Green did the bulk of work on Jan. 25, but he had help. Bogut and Ezeli played a combined 27 minutes in that game, and Green spent a little time defending Kawhi Leonard. Green could’ve used some help on the boards tonight, and he wasn’t getting it from Harrison Barnes, Mo Speights, James Michael McAdoo or Anderson Varejao.
There was no logical reason for the Warriors to play as hard as possible tonight. (Other than the regular season wins record, pride, and … OK, there were some logical reasons, just reasons most NBA teams would ignore at this point of the season.) But they did. In fact, if they could’ve gotten an offensive rebound at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when they were down one and the Spurs got FOUR chances and ended their marathon possession with a Danny Green three, they would’ve had a good chance to win this game.
— Who’s the Spurs’ rim protector these days? The Warriors shot 36 threes, probably about 16 too many, and that played right into the home team’s hands.
— I very well could be missing an NHL team, but I’m going to assume that no major pro sports team in North America can match the total of gray hairs possessed by the San Antonio Spurs.
— 2016 Tim Duncan = 2016 Peyton Manning. He can make a play every now and then, but his teammates will have to carry him if he’s going to get one last ring. It’s going to be weird to watch the Spurs when he isn’t around next year.
— One of the nice things about the Warriors’ injuries is we’re seeing really good, consistent play from Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston. Livingston was outstanding tonight, especially on defense.
— Warriors leading rebounders: Green (9), Curry (6), Klay Thompson (5) Livingston (5), Barbosa (4).
— Barnes followed one of his best performances in a while (20 points on 7-of-13 shooting against Dallas after failing to reach double-digits in his previous seven games) with another stinker: 8 points (3-for-10), 5 fouls and a game-low -17 tonight.
— I’m never a big fan of pinning blame on the officials, and I agree with this assessment.
This is legal, me thinks. Gather then 1 2 https://t.co/0Y20ax16jo
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) March 20, 2016
It looked terrible live, and Steve Kerr blew a gasket, and Jeff Van Gundy said it was a travel, but it probably wasn’t a travel. I’ve seen far worse that weren’t called.
— Can you imagine trying to call a game between two teams that move and think (translation: figure out ways to get away with stuff) as quickly as the Warriors and Spurs? March Madness is like watching basketball played by guys who are tranquilized compared to these Warriors games we get to watch on a four-nights-per-week basis.
— Does anyone else feel sorry for the Timberwolves, who have to face Curry after he went 4-for-18 on national TV?
— Tony Parker didn’t do it alone, but he looked much better against Curry tonight after playing like the worst defender in the league in Oakland back in January.
— This is supposedly a league where the teams pace themselves all season and you won’t miss anything as long as you start paying attention to a game in the last two minutes, and the Warriors have provided an incredible show for 98% of the season. Sure, it’s the Spurs, and the Warriors weren’t going to give up on national TV at the beginning of the game, but Kerr set the tone last night when he said Bogut most likely wouldn’t play and he wished he had the “guts” to rest his starters like Gregg Popovich likely would’ve. His team could’ve taken a mental day, but they didn’t. And a tired team that was a shell of its normal self almost won a very ugly game. For those reasons, this was the Warriors’ most beautiful loss of the season.
— And Kerr wanted to see that energy. How could you tell? He was ready to rip an official’s head off from the first quarter onward.
— Tonight means the Warriors won’t even think of cruising to the playoffs from here through mid-April. It’s not the safest way to zoom toward a championship, but it’s definitely the most entertaining.