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Warriors-Spurs: 2018 1st Round Playoffs

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On Golden State
2018/04/14
124   6  

The consensus is that the Warriors will win their first round match-up against the San Antonio Spurs.  Some say it will take 5 games. Some say 7.

Nobody, except maybe the Warriors themselves, see a sweep like last year, when the team beat the Portland Trailblazers in 4 games in the first round.

Two Questions: Starts and Defense

When the Warriors get in gear, they're hard to stop. But getting in gear - flipping the switch - has been more of a problem this year. Steve Kerr put it charitable when he said in February:

“I think this year it’s been kind of a common theme that we’ve just eased into some games,” Kerr said. “And you guys know better than I do the third quarter numbers. We’ve generally stretched leads in the third and taken over games in that quarter. But I think there’s probably something to the idea that we’re easing into games, just like we’ve sort of eased into the season. It’s a microcosm of the big picture. That’s how I look at it.”

In practical terms, slow starts have translated into careless turnovers, shots not falling and less-than-aggressive defense. Generally, the team has looked less than fully engaged.

With Stephen Curry out of the lineup for the Spurs series, a key to all three will Kevin Durant. A turned-on and creative KD makes the Warriors a different team both offensively and defensively. It will be interesting to see if Durant comes out hot.

The other big factor is Draymond Green. When he's engaged, his defense both stymies opponents and opens the door for the Warriors' transition game.

We'll see if the spark is there or if the Warriors find themselves down by 10 at the end of the first quarter with a hill to climb for each win.

Depth and Endurance

Beyond the first quarter, there are a bunch more factors that will determine how the Warriors gel. How many times they have to win each game. 

Quinn Cook


There's a good deal of Stephen Curry in Quinn Cook. We'll see how much. In Curry's absence, he's shown he's ready and able to step up on the big stage. He makes 3. His pull-up mid-range jumper is a thing of beauty. He fits the team.

If he has a weakness, it's defense. Quinn getting beaten early has been part of a couple of the Warriors slow starts in the last part of the season.

Klay Thompson

Personally, I want to see Klay score 60 in 29 minutes again. But I'll settle for him going 4 on his first 5. It's a joy when the Warriors offense makes plays for him. Defensively, he's always there. He's a wonderful two-way player. I just hope he gets open early and knocks down shots.

Andre Igoudala

It wasn't a surprise that Kerr first turned to Andre Igoudala when he let players coach that game against Phoenix this year.  He's a veteran and a leader. When he's on the court, the Warriors play smarter and tougher. When his shots fall, the Warriors can be great. But he's not an unlimited resource. It will be good to see Andre help defensively and create on the offensive side, but the Spurs series is just the first round. There's a lot of basketball to go. Making use of peak Andre will be a challenge for Kerr.

David West

There was a spell this year when David West shot an amazing percentage for his mid-range shots. At his distance, he can be almost automatic. If he gets himself into that zone, the Spurs will have yet more worry on their hands. He is arguably the Warriors best defensive center and an amazing passer. He has the kind of basketball intelligence that wins championships. West, however, is another limited quantity and so another player that Kerr needs to use wisely and well.

Shaun Livingston

How many times have Shaun Livingston gotten into the post and shot over a defender? How many times has he slipped to the basket on a back cut for a dunk? After last years championship, there was a question whether the Warriors would bring back Shaun (and Andre Igoudala) for this year's season or look to younger players. The team chose experience. The Spurs series would be a good time to see that confidence pay off.

Kevon Looney

If anyone has earned a spot on the playoff roster, it has to be Kevon. He brings energy. His defense has been superb. He blocks shots. He rebounds on both ends of the court, whether to follow shots or win second chances. Lately, he has begun to hit mid-range jump shots. Kevon is the kind of depth that will help the Warriors win.

And then there's Jordan Bell and Damian Jones, both of whom are amazingly athletic and can provide spark to change or cement games. And the JaVale McGee / Zaza Pachulia dynamic. Does anyone provide better screens that Zaza?  I have the feeling that when Curry rejoins the team, Zaza will have a big role in the rotation. And then there's Nick Young, the topic of the season premiere of Game of Zones. 

Uncle Swaggy. LOL. May he rain 3s. And gets real Swaggy.

 


...


Tags: 2018 nba playoffs x 2 golden state warriors x 9

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On Golden State
2018/04/15

The Warriors starting lineup for the first game of the series was a surprise:

  • Andre Iguodala
  • JaVale McGee
  • Kevin Durant
  • Klay Thompson
  • Draymond Green

Within seconds of the opening tip, Steve Kerr’s logic was clear: Defense. The starting unit was on fire. Everybody was engaged and energized, JaValle McGee especially. His block on LaMarcus Aldridge with 4 minutes left in the 1st quarter was emblematic.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It was an inspired choice by Kerr, not just for keeping the Spurs in check but for enabling his team to bring the best of themselves.

"I thought it was important to re-establish our defense, one way or another, win or lose. That's the reason this is a championship team. It's the defense that has been the key for this team for years." Steve Kerr

At the end of the first period, the Warriors were up by 11. It was the best kind of start.  Up by as much as 28 in the 4th, they never trailed in the game. The final score was 113-92.

On the other side of the ball, Klay Thompson was nearly perfect

He didn’t score 60 points, but did go 11-of-13 from the field, including 5-of-6 3-point shots. In 35 minutes, Thompson scored 27 points with two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

The two rapid fouls by Dejounte Murray on Thompson in the 3rd showed how much Klay was getting open. Unable to keep up, Murray was left to grabbing Klay's jersey to try and slow him down.

On all sides of the ball, the Warriors’ effort showed

Quinn Cook and Kevon Looney played with great effort. Cook didn’t get smoked on defense. He had no turnovers when as point guard. Looney was active and gave tremendous effort.

Shaun Livingston scored 11 points in 19 minutes with 5 rebounds.  He was sharp. David West was solid on defense and found his range for a pair of mid-range jumpers.

Kevin Durant was the player the Warriors needed

In 31 minutes, Durante scored 24 points (over 50% shooting), 7 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 of 5 (perfect) from the line. He made shots, found teammates and defended. Did he even play in the 4th quarter?

The feeling coming out of the game was this game was as much for the Warriors as it was against the Spurs. It felt like the team came home go a good place and they liked the feeling.

One down. 15 to go.

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On Golden State
2018/04/17
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Game 2 was a tale of two halves.

At the end of two, the Spurs were up by 6, 53-47.  They outplayed the Warriors.

The Spurs pressured on defense and forced 11 turnovers. Draymond Green got 2 fouls in first 2 minutes and sat. LaMarcus Aldridge played more aggressively with JaVale McGee, at times, looking confused. Quinn Cook was tentative on offense and not part of the flow.

In other words, the first half went from a slow start to a rough second quarter. Jim Barnett, the amazing Warriors TV color commentator, was annoyed by technical difficulties with his audio setup.

One bright spot, however, was Andre Igoudala. He started hitting 3s.

The 2nd half was a very different story.

The Warriors adjusted. They pressed harder on offense and forced the Spurs into fouls on and off the ball in their attempts to keep them in check.

They took advantage of the Spurs spread defense to throw lobs to JaVale at the rim. JaVale finished with 10 points.

They shot early before the Spurs could set up their defense. They ran and took advantage of transitions. The protected the ball. Turnovers went dramatically down.

And Klay Thompson got hot. After just 7 points in the 1st half, Klay went for 24 in the 2nd half, with 16 in the 4th period. He shot 60% overall, with 5 of 8 from 3. He also had 5 assists.

Andre Igoudala finished with 14 points in 27 minutes, shooting 71.4%. He had 5 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and a block.  He went 4 of 5 for 3s. And had a monster dunk.


Kevin Durant was as amazing as ever. His talent filled in all the gaps. 32 points in 38 minutes, shooting 52.6%. 6 rebounds 6 assists, 1 block, 9 of 10 for free throws.

And Quinn Cook made 2 of 4 shots from deep, including a classic corner 3. He may be getting ready for a coming out party.

David West was a strong as ever, but unfortunately twisted his left ankle in the second half when guarding Aldridge.  The loss of David going forward would be bad.

In the end, the Warriors came away with a convincing 116-101 win. Game 3 shifts to San Antonio.  LaMarcus Aldridge has shown he can up his game and show the Warriors different looks. Will he have yet another gear?  Maybe game 3 would be the time to give Zaza Pachulia some time at center as a Warrior counter-strategy to the Spurs star.

Two down.  14 to go.

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On Golden State
2018/04/20

The tragic news of the death of Erin Popovich, wife of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent shock waves though the Warriors.

The couple were married for four decades and had two children and two grandchildren.  Steve Kerr shared his thoughts.

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On Golden State
2018/04/20

If the Spurs were going to make a comeback in this series, this was the game.

In the end, the Warriors made more good plays and keep up their solid defense to beat the Spurs 110-97.

After the game Kerr commented:

“This was about what I expected.” 

“Take care of the ball and defend over 48 minutes and things should work out.”

In the first quarter, the teams played evenly, with no clear advantage.  The quarter ended with the Warriors up by 3, 26-23.

In the second quarter, the Warriors started to get into rhythm.  A fake dribble hand off (DHO) between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant that led to a Green dunk was a good example of a play that worked.

Still, in the entire first half, the Warriors were less than sharp, going 1 for 11 from 3.

The second quarter was a replay of the first with the Warriors winning the 12 minutes by 3 points. The half ended with the Warriors up by 6, 52-46.

In the 3rd quarter, shots started going in and by the end, the Warriors were up by 12, 84-72.

The Warriors put the game away in the 4th. The play that took the life out of the Spurs was a pair of offensive rebounds that lead to a Klay Thompson 3 from well behind the line.

The Warriors won all 4 quarters.

  1 2 3 4 T
GS 26 26 32 26 110
SA 23 23 26 25 97

They had only 10 turnovers in the game and committed just 16 personal fouls. Overall, the team shot 51.2% from the field while holding the Spurs to just 42.5% shooting.  

  • Kevin Durant finished with 26 points, with 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  He was 1 for 6 on 3s.
  • Klay Thompson scored 19 points.  He was 50% shooting with 8 for 16 and 3 for 6 on 3s.
  • Shaun Livingston contributed 16 points and was a perfect 8 for 8 on free throws.
  • Quinn Cook continued his progress with 12 points, shooting 5 for 9 and hitting 2 of 5 3s.
  • Kevon Looney once again provided solid defense and flashes of offense, with 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and a block in 22 minutes.
  • Draymond Green made the difference on defense with 4 blocks, 2 steals and 4 defensive rebounds. On the offensive side the Spurs left him open for 3s and he made 2 of his 5 attempts. He also had 7 assists and a pair of offensive rebounds.  He finished with 10 points.

Steve Kerr was unstinting in his praise for Draymond’s defense:

 

Kerr also said that he thinks both Shaun Livingston and Kevin Durant will be OK after they both went down with turned ankles in the 4th quarter.

Three down. 13 to go.

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On Golden State
2018/04/23

Game 4 was predicted to be a blowout, one way or the other. Either the Warriors would come out and put a definitive stamp on the series or the Spurs would roll over Golden State.

In the end, neither happened.  

The Spurs played with energy and grit but they could never put the Warriors away.

At the end of the first, the Spurs were up by 8.  By the half, they had extended the lead to 14. But the Warriors brought it back to within 6 by the end of the 3rd.  Late in the 4th, the Warriors were within 2 points.

But it was not to be. At the wire, the Spurs hit shots and the Warriors didn’t. The Spurs finished by winning 103-90 and sending the series back to Oakland for a Game 5 on Tuesday.

The Spurs had 5 players in double figures.  The Warriors just 3. The Dubs shot 37.8% overall and just 25% from 3. It was not a strong performance.

The Spurs played for pride and the Warriors were looking past the game. 

Steve Kerr was surprisingly upbeat at his post game press conference. He had good things to say about his old teammate Manu Ginóbili.

Now that New Orleans has clinched their series against Portland to set up a 2nd round match up with the Warriors, not much has changed.  The Dubs expect to win next Tuesday and then figure out what they'll need to do to face Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

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On Golden State
2018/04/26

The Warriors closed the series with the Spurs with a 99-91 Game 5 win on their home court in Oakland. A gentleman’s sweep.

In the grand scheme of things, it felt correct. The Spurs got a win at home in Game 4, not least in honor of Erin Popovich, the wife of Gregg Popovich who passed away after Game 2. Her tragic death put the series in an odd, real-world light. The playoffs are one thing. The loss of a family member is another.

Kevin Durant ended a 4th quarter scoring drought to clinch the win with just 36 seconds left, after the Spurs had pulled within 2 at 91-93. The Dubs led comfortably by 14 with 10 minutes left in the game, but the air had gone out of the Warriors shooting in the final quarter.

 

If Durant gave the team the victory, it was was Klay Thompson who earned the win. And he did it by dint of sheer hard work. He moved without the ball. He helped on defense. He got himself open and made shots, going 5-of-5 in the second quarter, capped by 21-foot buzzer-beater that had the crowd on its feet. It was vintage Klay.

Talking to Kerith Burke going into the break, Klay put it simply: “I just cut hard and I get open.”

Klay’s performance placed him alongside Rick Barry and Stephen Curry as just the 3rd Warrior to make 600 postseason field goals.

The other good news from the night was that the team as a group continued to play good defense.

Draymond Green grabbed an outstanding 19 rebounds. He had 7 assists and scored 17 points in his on right. David West was a force beneath the rim with 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He contributed 3 assists. Andre Igoudala passed up open shots, but was solid defending. Kevon Looney once again showed why he is on the floor thanks to his energy, hustle and smart hands.

Shaun Livingston had a slow start offensively, but showed more aggressive play in the second half. He made it to his spot for mid-range shots over smaller defenders and took advantage of the off-ball movement of Klay and KD keeping defenders busy to run crisp plays to the basket with David West.

All in all, it was a good win for the team, not least because it closed the series so the Dubs can now turn their sights on the Pelicans and Round 2.

Except for Klay, the Warriors 3-point shooting in the Spurs series was less than stellar. But averages will catch up with them. And Steph Curry will come back at some point.

The curse of the first round was the low expectations that surrounded the contests. No one expected the Spurs to win. It seems like the Warriors always need something to play for. They found enough on Tuesday, if nothing more than the chance to give Manu a proper stage for what may prove be his last NBA game.

Four down. 12 to go.

 

 

 

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