San Antonio Versus Golden State PreviewWestern Conference Second Round
#2 San Antonio (58-24) vs. #6 Golden State (47-35)
Season series: Tied, 2-2
Golden State can win if…Stephen Curry is the best guard--if not the best player--during the series. That is not necessarily a far-fetched proposition; Curry had an All-NBA caliber season and he elevated his game during the Warriors' upset win against the third seeded Denver Nuggets. The Warriors also need to receive solid rebounding/defense from Andrew Bogut to offset the loss of All-Star forward David Lee.
San Antonio will win because…the Spurs will limit the Warriors' three point shooting attack without giving up too many points in the paint. The Spurs execute their half court offense very efficiently but they are also capable of running up and down the court with the Warriors.
Other things to consider: Much like the New England Patriots, the Spurs are a model organization that annually contends for top honors but it has been awhile since they reached the summit. Although the Spurs' core players--Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili--have won three championships together they have not captured the title since 2007; the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season but in each of the prior three years they lost in the first or second round of the playoffs. The Spurs have much more playoff experience than the Warriors and should thus be the more poised team down the stretch of close games but health--the dominant theme so far in the 2013 NBA playoffs--and the ability to consistently execute the game plan at both ends of the court will decide who advances to the Western Conference Finals.
The Warriors are known as a run and gun, high scoring, three point shooting team but they displayed a lot of defensive tenacity versus the Nuggets--and that should not be shocking: the Warriors only ranked 19th in points allowed during the regular season (largely because they played at a fast tempo) but they ranked fourth in defensive field goal percentage. The Warriors often utilize small lineups and, other than Bogut, they do not have any shot blockers but they are a scrappy team that ranked third in rebounding and first in defensive rebounding.
Curry's game continues to develop and expand. He had at least seven assists and at least four three pointers in each of the first four games of the Denver series (the first four playoff games of his career); no other player in NBA playoff history has ever had four such straight games. Curry is not just a catch and shoot three point marksman; he creates shots off of the dribble for himself and for his teammates and even though he has a slight build he is a solid, crafty defender.
I thought that Denver's deep roster would overwhelm the Warriors; both teams lost key players--and Golden State's Lee is more valuable than Denver's Danilo Gallinari--but the Warriors adjusted very well on the fly, they were not rattled by losing game one on Andre Miller's buzzer beating layup and they outexecuted the Nuggets down the stretch. Denver's George Karl is a very good coach but his teams have been on the wrong end of some big playoff upsets so he either gets the most out of limited squads during the regular season and/or his teams underachieve during the postseason. Mark Jackson has done a wonderful job of instilling a defensive mindset in Golden State and convincing his players to be disciplined and accountable; his inexperienced Warriors play much harder and much smarter (other than a slight meltdown that almost cost them game six) than more celebrated/publicized teams like the L.A. Lakers.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:03 PM