Western Conference 2nd Round: Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs

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San Antonio’s had a week for their old guys to rest and get ready for their next opponent. Golden State who at the end of a clumsy 4th quarter last night in Oracle Arena came out alive and ready to play onward. In some ways the Spurs are really just an older version of the Warriors in the way that they share the ball and are so explosive offensively. There is also a certain camaraderie among both these teams that keeps them exciting and intense on the court. Who will win this series? The Big Dogs or the Underdogs? Let’s see.

How Golden State Wins:

Golden State has all the momentum in the basketball world coming into this series against the Spurs. After both the Clippers and Lakers’ disappointing seasons finishing abruptly, they are not only California’s team but America’s team. Oracle Arena is like a college campus and the entire team from Mark Jackson down to Andris Biedrins are full of energy every game. Maybe not Andris Biedrins but you get the idea. They play with tons of energy on the offensive end and on the defensive end of the floor and that is going to be vital against the Spurs whose schemes can frustrate teams everywhere – especially a team whose average age is 26 who doesn’t have the mental strength nor the experience that other teams may have. Stephen Curry has been hot all postseason and won’t be fazed this series even by Tony Parker. He’s already dealt with Lawson, Brewer and Igoudala for god’s sake. There is really nothing that the Spurs can throw at him that he hasn’t seen already. According to ESPN.com, he leads all players in assists this post-season in assists with 9.3 a game. He is third in PER ratings at 27.3 only behind Lebron James and Kevin Durant. He is averaging 24 points on 44% shooting from beyond the arc and here is the kicker: In 3 games against San Antonio this season, Stephen Curry averaged 26 points on 47% from downtown. That’s a stat that should put a smile on Golden State fans who won’t have to worry about the Spurs’ defensive schemes bothering Curry. Curry’s shooting in the postseason has opened things up for him to penetrate and that has impacted his teammates who have all benefited from his improved play. That was evident in their 1st round match-up against Denver when Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut both increased their scoring production.

Golden State is going to need Klay Thompson to step his game up against San Antonio. His scoring dipped against the Nuggets, as did his shooting percentage from the regular season. If he’s not a threat from the perimeter then it allows defenses to shrink into the paint and that eliminates driving lanes for his teammates.

Andrew Bogut became a top 5 center again against the Nuggets in the 1st round and the Warriors will need him to continue rebounding the ball and defending the paint to counter Duncan down low and Tony Parker’s penetration. David Lee’s health will be key in this series from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, the Warriors have found viable options off the bench in Carl Landry and Draymond Green. Offensively, if he can contribute 10-12 points a game the Warriors will be in good shape. His presence poses another threat to the Spurs’ defense and gives them another weapon to pull the defense in to give room to their shooters.

Golden State will also need to take care of the ball if they want a chance to compete. They averaged 17 turnovers a game against Denver including 10 turnovers in the 4th quarter alone of Game 6. San Antonio is not dangerous in transition but they value the ball and if you’re turning the ball over and your opponent is not than you are losing opportunities to score and handing them to the opposition. The Spurs only averaged 9.8 turnovers a game against Los Angeles so Golden State is going to need to value every possession.

The two main culprits that Golden State has to worry about on the defensive end is the duo of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan – both seasoned experts when it comes to the playoffs. The entire team is going to have to be active to beat Tony Parker. He is deadly coming off of pick and rolls, and once he gets into the paint you can almost bet on 2 points or a pass out to one of his collection of shooters in Matt Bonner, Danny Green and Gary Neal among others. Bogut is going to need to hedge hard on pick and rolls instead of staying back. Tony Parker has a more consistent jumper than Ty Lawson and will kill Golden State if they give him room and wait for him. Stopping Tim Duncan on the other hand will be a proponent of strong low-post defense, which the Warriors have tons of. They can throw many options at him including Bogut, Landry, Green and even Lee if he’s feeling up to it. They’ll need to be tough and be young and disruptive on the 37 year old Duncan who isn’t the same physical specimen he was 10 years ago.

How San Antonio Wins:

San Antonio wins with experience. Golden State’s oldest player is 32 years old. They’re babies compared to the wise men playing over in San Antonio. Golden State’s inexperience was brought to the light in the 4th quarter of Game 6 against Denver when they coughed up 10 turnovers. Denver is young themselves, but I guarantee San Antonio would’ve won that game and forced a Game 7 had they been in that position. San Antonio will win the mental game and that could be the difference maker. They are superbly coached in every faset of the game. Their defense and offense works like a factory and since everybody’s been together for so long they rarely make mistakes. I think the most effective way to stop Curry is to trap him as soon as he crosses half court. When he has the ball in his hands the Warriors offense is fluid and effective but when you force someone else to take the responsibility of primary ball handler they face problems. It puts pressure on other guys to make plays and that’s the way you beat the Warriors. When Jarret Jack is in and Curry is coming off screens off the ball, the Spurs will have to trust the defensive abilities and I.Q of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Corey Joseph and Gary Neal. Tony Parker is going to have an easy time in this series against Curry who is an inconsistent defender and coming off screens where Bogut is a culprit of staying flat-footed and waiting for the offensive player to attack him. Tony should have pull up jumpers all day long in this series. The Spurs need their outside shooters to be effective in this series to counter Golden States shooting. The Warriors make all of their runs through three point shooting and that’s how they’re never counted out of a game. To match that explosiveness, they’ll need Danny Green, Bonner and their other guys to hit shots.

Who Will WIn?

I underestimated the Warriors against the Nuggets and got burned because of it, so I think I’m going to go with them this time and see if it works out. I hate to bet against such an experienced and well coached squad like the Spurs but I think the explosiveness and energy that the Warriors have will out-match that of the Spurs. Curry is my MVP of the playoffs so far and with him hitting shots and putting pressure on the defense I think the Warriors can make it past this round.

Final Prediction:

Warriors in 7.

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