The Western Conference has been the San Antonio Spurs’ stomping ground for the better part of the past decade, and they wanted to send a message to the Golden State Warriors that they don't intend on losing the chance to go to the Finals two seasons in a row.
The Warriors (62-7) came into San Antonio on Saturday night with intentions on becoming the first team to upend the Spurs at home this season. The lethal three point attack led by reigning MVP Stephen Curry and ‘Splash Bro’ sidekick Klay Thompson, haven’t had any trouble pronouncing their dominance on the league over the past two seasons, but that same rhetoric didn’t hold true against Popovich's squad Saturday night.
In fact, the ‘Splash Bro’s’ were quite dry, going a combined 2-19 (10.5%) from the arc, thanks to the hostile Spurs crowd, and stifling defense out of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the Spurs guards. The staple to the championship run last season and the biggest attribution to Golden State’s record setting pace this season was controlled on Saturday night, and as a result the San Antonio Spurs remained perfect at home this season (35-0) and gave the Warriors their seventh loss of the season.
There are a few things to look at after these two heavyweights battled it out Saturday, as we look ahead toward the playoffs and what we can expect to be the Western Conference Finals matchup.
First, Steph Curry is going to need to figure out how to solve the veteran-led Spurs team in a seven game series. Curry who is the league’s leading scorer this year at a blistering 30.3 ppg is averaging a measly 14 ppg against the Spurs over his career. To be the MVP of a championship team, he has to figure out how to dominate the game against the foes from Texas like he does against every other team in the league. However, we shouldn’t take this loss too seriously, I mean, the Warriors are still on pace to dethrone the ‘95-’96 Bulls and their history making record of 72-10. But against the Spurs, the only shining star on the floor was Draymond Green who flirted with a triple-double notching (11 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists), and got no help from his All-Star teammates Thompson and Curry, who were a combined -16 in plus/minus.
To give the Warriors some credit, they were not playing with their full, healthy roster on Saturday. They were without the great rim protector in Andrew Bogut and last season’s Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala who gives their lineup needed pace, and defensive prowess. The Spurs controlled the glass and dominated in the paint all night, headlined by offseason acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge who had 26 points on (11-25) shooting along with 13 rebounds. ‘The Claw’ Kawhi Leonard also chipped in a productive 18 points and 14 rebounds. The Spurs enjoyed a dominating 53-37 rebounding advantage, and had Manu Ginobili come off the bench and give them three big three pointers.
Whether you are a Spurs fan and believe that the Power Forward depth and defensive minded basketball that is played in San Antonio will win the West, or you are a Warriors supporter and think that the three point threat from multiple guys on the roster is too lethal to beat in a seven game series is enough to go to the Finals for a second straight year, we can all agree that if this is the matchup for the Western Conference crown, we will be in for a wild ride.