The title of this post says it all. The San Antonio Spurs had a small chance of upsetting the Golden State Warriors before the Western Conference Finals began. Without Kawhi Leonard? No chance at all.
The one-sided (so far) series is heading to San Antone, but there isn’t the usual sense of a possible shift in momentum we usually sense when the home courts switch. Leonard, as you might have expected, is officially out for game 3 as well. The Golden State Warriors have been so dominant since Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle, first off the foot of his own teammate and then by rolling it on Zaza Pachulia’s leg. Whether the Warriors center did it on purpose or not is irrelevant at this point. The Warriors are walking all over the second best team in the West.
The numbers don’t lie. Since Leonard went down, the Spurs are trailing the Warriors by 61 points in 4.5 quarters of basketball. They managed to build a huge lead while Leonard was playing in game 1, almost hanging on to it, before their inability to control Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry crippled them defensively.
The plan Gregg Popovich went with relied on Leonard’s ability to guard anyone, his talent on offense, which dazzled in the first game. Give Durant and Curry a difficult time, and ask for Green and Thompson to beat you, with open shots at times. Not perfect, but better than running around trying to cover someone that’s always going to be open. And it worked. Maybe it would have just been a game 1 thing, but now we’ll never know.
The conference finals in the East are one-sided because that’s how big the difference between the Cavaliers and Celtics is. Out West, we’ll be left wondering most likely, and with a not so innocent aroma hovering above the whole absence of Leonard. The Warriors are the more talented team, but it shouldn’t be like this.