The San Antonio Spurs are in trouble. They were outplayed by the Golden State Warriors in the opening two games, lucky to come out with a win in the first one, and are heading into their first road game of the series without a lot of rest given previously to some of their weary players, and still without an answer on how to stop the Warriors offense.
Because once they figured out how to stop Stephen Curry – not just pushing him to a certain side but deploying either Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard on the point guard, it frees up Klay Thompson (34 points in game 2) or someone closer to the basket.
The Spurs also have a defensive issue with Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw. Unless Tiago Splitter is good to go for more minutes (played 10 in game 2), the Spurs rely too heavily on Duncan being busy with Andre Bogut. They were one of the top 5 defensive teams during the season because Splitter allows Duncan to come from the weakside on the block, while also enjoying the perimeter defense provided by Leonard and Green. In the playoffs, or more specifically, against the Warriors, it hasn’t been so easy.
Meanwhile, Golden State are booming with confidence. Curry struggled (35% from the field) in Game 2, forced to try and score on floaters and drives to the basket instead of three point shooting off the dribble like he loves, but the Warriors have shown they can live and win without huge games from him. Thompson is deadly from the outside, while Harrison Barnes is doing an excellent job as well, averaging 16 points so far against the Spurs in the semifinals.
The bottom line so far? The Warriors are winning where it’s important – in the paint, beneath and above the rim and simply shooting better than the Spurs. They’ve got a 12 rebound advantage so far, mostly coming due to the Spurs shooting just over 41% from the field, while Golden State are 48.3% in the series. They’re working the mismatches very well, and making the most of all the shuffling the Spurs are doing in an attempt to stop Curry.
So what can the Spurs do? Start finding ways to clear some space in the paint. Instead of one on ones for Duncan, they need to set the right kind of screens to give Parker and Leonard a chance to attack the basket, something Manu Ginobili is doing anyway. If Bogut or Ezeli don’t step outside on the picks, the Spurs need to start hitting their shots. It can’t be any simpler than that, but they’ve been having trouble doing it so far.
Prediction – This might be the closest series to call, even though the Warriors have been outplaying San Antonio so far. Still, someone has to be picked in order to make this a real predictions post, and the feeling is that the Spurs still haven’t figures out how to dominate this series, and maybe another loss will finally shake them up enough to start playing better.