The first game in the Western conference semifinals series between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs provided us with two overtimes, an amazing performance from Stephen Curry and an even better finish from Manu Ginobili. Chances are we’re in for a letdown in terms of quality in game 2, but not by much.
The Spurs don’t want to be chasing the Warriors again for 48 minutes, which means a possible change in defensive assignments earlier in the game. Kawhi Leonard made life impossible for Stephen Curry in overtime and the fourth quarter, and the Spurs really hope Tiago Splitter can come back and give the Spurs their more effective defensive look one again after suffering against the twin tower look from the Warriors in game 1.
When Tim Duncan has to play next to Boris Diaw, the Spurs rely a lot more on their franchise player to be the focus in the paint on both offense and defense. Part of his rejuvenation this season has been his ability to lean on Splitter, Leonard and Green for defensive help, both giving him more freedom to come from the weakside and block shots (averaging only 0.8 in the postseason compared with 2.7 during the regular season) and saving him fresh for offensive possessions. The Spurs looked better during certain stretches with Duncan off the court in Game 1.
One thing the Spurs and the Warriors must have picked up on during the first game was Klay Thompson’s importance, possibly in presence alone. He had the highest +/- of any Warriors played despite missing all of his three point attempts. Thompson commands constant attention and prevents double teams from coming Curry’s way, who also finished with 11 assists. Tony Parker taking Thompson out of the game with six fouls proved to be one of the changing factors in favor of the Spurs, which means some defensive shuffling or more early traps on Parker when Ginobili isn’t one the floor might be a good idea for the Warriors.
As amazing as Curry is and the likelihood of him repeating his performance not looking too bad, the Warriors have lost more than once despite his shooting performances. They need Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry to step up and make the most of the attention he’s drawing. Landry scored 8 points on only 14 minutes in Game 1; Jack scored 15 points but was only 33.3% from the field. Both of them need to be better.
Predictions – Even if Curry hasn’t gotten all of those shots out of his system, it’s more than likely that the Spurs won’t be so helpless on defense against him for a second straight game. Unless Mark Jackson figures out a way to slow down Tony Parker without fouling out his second best shooter, it’s going to be a close one, but 2-0 for the Spurs.