Too old, too slow, can’t contend, these descriptions followed the San Antonio Spurs every postseason since ’08. Yet, for the second year in a row, Greg Popovich’s group let their play speak volumes. The Spurs’ 94-82 victory over Golden State last night sent the media darling Warriors packing and opened a new chapter for the NBA Playoffs: The Western Conference Finals.
The Warriors are Raj’s beat but, since the guy’s still crying in his car, he can’t be here to seek consolation via keystrokes. Send some thoughts and prayers out for him because the pain is very real for him right now.
Anyway, San Antonio controlled tempo early until the Warriors strung together some runs in the second half. The Oracle got into it and it appeared as if another impending collapse emerged in Dionne Warwick’s crystal ball.
Then, late in the fourth, the game turned out into a series of breaks going San Antonio’s way. A string of tough threes kept GState at bay and, surprisingly enough, two huge treys came in succession from a struggling Tony Parker. The guy couldn’t hit anything out there but managed to ice the Warriors’ last attempts to prolong their season. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green also chipped in from downtown and triggered pivotal defensive stops along the way.
Meanwhile, Golden State got played by the rim on consecutive three point attempts from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Those rim rattlers, along with San Antonio converting on their end, took all the gas out of Golden State’s engine. Yet, despite the disappointment, you can see Golden State shows promise despite their youth.
Golden State has a versatile core and the much improved defense under Mark Jackson’s staff can’t be ignored. At the same time it’s clear their movement still has issues to address. You already know what to expect from the likes of Steph, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and supporting players such as Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Their success lives and dies with Klay Thompson’s and and Harrison Barnes’ consistency: or lack thereof.
Harrison and Klay play well, Golden State flourishes. They struggle, Golden State feels “hurted.” For example, Klay’s clangers added to the Warriors’ deficit early and he couldn’t shoot out of his slump. Barnes also didn’t score with efficiency before he went down with a game-ending injury. Lee and his bum hip couldn’t pick up the slack and Barnes’ absence yielded more help defense opportunities on Curry who, despite dropping 22 points, did so on 25 shots. GState will be downright scary if those two get their act together and pan out. Unfortunately, the jury’s still out on those guys.
Let’s get back to the Spurs. They have the pleasure of playing the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals and, man, it’s easy to not envy them. San Antonio’s front court isn’t outfitted to regularly contain Marc and Z-Bo. The board battle and starting point guard play will be huge factors in dictating the Western Conference Finals.
Remember, Michael Conley’s coming off some of his best-ever postseason performances. I hate to give Junior too much credit but his match up with Tony may be closer than many will anticipate. Additionally each team’s bench touts deep reserves so a battle of attrition may appear on the horizon.
This upcoming Western Conference Final won’t have any of the fun stuff kids like to see. Expect a ton of basketball nerd moments, meticulous half-court sets and, above all, hard-nosed team play. David Stern already hates this series but screw him and his thirst for ratings. Old school ball, you know, the kind of basketball heads clamor about in comments sections, will reign supreme for the next week and half: maybe more.
Embrace it with open arms, folks.