Figuring out two things – how to slow down Stephen Curry, and getting Tony Parker going stands in the basis of the San Antonio Spurs efforts to turn the Western Conference Semifinals series back to their side. In game 3, helped by more minutes from Tiago Splitter and a big game from Tim Duncan, it seemed to be working.
Tony Parker finally had the big game the Spurs have been waiting for; not just enough to win a game, but look like a better team than the Golden State Warriors for the first time in this series. Parker scored 32 points, 25 of them in the first half, as he kept going left while Jarrett Jack (the man mostly guarding Parker) felt a shoulder in his back a bit too much during the game, which made it almost impossible for him to slow down the French point guard.
On the other end, Stephen Curry had another day of facing Danny Green. Curry finished with only 16 points on a terrible 5-17 from the field, including 1-7 from the field with Green on him and 0-3 from beyond the arc. Curry is only 10% from the field when Danny Green is keeping tabs on him, while shooting 53.8% when guarded by someone else on the Spurs’ team. The Spurs won rather convincingly, 102-92, to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
We made shots, and they didn’t have as good a night shooting the ball. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
Sometimes that really is all the difference. The Spurs shot a series-best 50.6% from the field, despite not getting too many opportunities on the open floor. The improved situation of Splitter allowed more of the preferred lineup for Popovich, giving the Spurs a big advantage in half-court sets, giving Tony Parker time and time again the opportunity to go left, while clearing the way for him under the basket.
Tim Duncan hardly getting touches in the fourth quarter of game 2 didn’t go unnoticed, and he looked much more involved all throughout the game. Duncan scored 23 points, adding 10 rebounds and 2 blocks, looking a lot more menacing now that he had his favorite Brazilian playing alongside him in the paint once again. Andrew Bogut might be able to handle just one of them, but even in big lineups, the Warriors struggled coping with both of them, as Splitter mostly focused on doing the little things instead of trying to match Duncan in scoring.
The Spurs have figured out Curry, but Splitter on the floor makes their defense looks like one of the best in the NBA once again. No contribution from Jarrett Jack, worn out from guarding Tony Parker (11 points, 5-12 from the field), or from Klay Thompson, who didn’t shoot like he was on fire, scoring 17 points but on only 35% from the field. All-around, shared scoring isn’t what the Warriors are about: without one of their guards exploding for a big one, they can’t outplay the Spurs, and obviously can’t win the series.
We talked about it, even after winning Game 2, this is going to be a heavyweight championship fight. This is a different animal that we’re going against. They have four future Hall of Famers. They’re not going to lie down.