Summary: For the San Antonio Spurs, pride was all they had left to fight for in Monday’s (April 16) game two of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs. Unfortunately, the Golden State Warriors didn’t care about their pride, as a second-half resurgence sent them into a pivotal game three with a 2-0 lead.
OAKLAND, CA – It was a fight…until it wasn’t.
The San Antonio Spurs, fresh off a 23-point beatdown in the opening game of the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, went into Mondaynight’s game ready to exact revenge on the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
However, part of exacting revenge requires holding a lead, which a) Golden State is good at doing, and b) San Antonio is not so good at; as the Spurs gave up a six-point halftime lead en route to a 116-101 game two loss.
Let’s break down some possible reasons behind why San Antonio is going back home to the AT&T Center in a serious bind.
1) SAN ANTONIO NEEDS KAWHI LEONARD, PERIOD:
Yes, I know this is a hot take that is going to cause people to get upset, but just as any team with LeBron James lives and dies by LeBron, the same goes true for the Spurs: with Kawhi Leonard, they are a much more potent team and a serious threat. We saw that in the Western Conference Finals last season when the Spurs had a 26-point lead on the Warriors in game one before Leonard got hurt.
Without Leonard, the Spurs’ defense takes a major hit. Sure, they have LaMarcus Aldridge; but with him on Javale McGee, who is holding down Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson for prolonged stretches? I’ll wait.
Even without the mega threat that is Stephen Curry, the Warriors found a way to figure out the Spurs’ smash-mouth defense from the first half, and as an end result outscored the Spurs 69-48 in the second half. You know, the half that matters the most.
2) MAMA ALWAYS SAID SHARING IS CARING:
The Golden State Warriors won game two for a myriad of reasons, but one was very relevant to their success: their ability to spread the ball around.
Obviously, Kevin Durant (32 points, 9-10 FT) is going to get his. And Klay Thompson (31 points, 5-8 3pt) definitely made an impact. But beyond those two, the rest of the team did their fair share of work. Andre Iguodala (14), David West (10) and Javale McGee (10) scored in double-figures, and as a team had 32 assists in Monday night’s win. As long as they are able to replicate that in game three, the Warriors should be able to hang another “L” on the Spurs’ head.
3) GREEN WITH ENVY:
The San Antonio Spurs did a great job at first of drawing the ire of Warriors’ defensive anchor Draymond Green, goading him into two fouls in the first three minutes. However, they didn’t do enough to get him out of their hair and paid for it as a result.
Green ended up with five fouls but restrained his emotion just enough to stay in the game and give the Spurs a headache defensively. The Warriors have proven over the last three years that for their defense to stand tall, they need Green leading the way. If San Antonio can find a way to keep Green constantly in foul trouble, the Warriors will have no choice but to depend on their thin bench to keep leads.
4) WHO IS THE SECOND OPTION?
LaMarcus Aldridge has become the defacto number one option for the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 34 points to go along with his game-high 12 rebounds.
The problem with that is, who is the true number two? Patty Mills was the second-leading scorer on the team with 21 points; Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol tied for third-best with 12 points. Head coach Gregg Popovich is usually pretty good at figuring out his team’s roles, but it’s 2018. Leonard sitting out is definitely leaving a gaping hole in the Spurs’ offense, and unless they can define a clear second option, there’s no way that the Spurs are going to make noise in the playoffs.
Game three is Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. PST at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.