For the last two years, the Warriors have dominated their way to the NBA finals. Many wondered, would this have happened if they played the San Antonio Spurs? Finally, we can put that question to rest, as these two heavyweights are set to play in the Western Conference finals.
The Warriors are making their third consecutive trip to Western Conference finals, while the Spurs are back for the first time since winning it all in 2014.
The Dubs Keep on Rolling
The Golden State Warriors have looked about as dominant as a team can look through the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. They’ve won all eight of their games, and most of them weren’t even close. The San Antonio Spurs on the other hand, fought hard to beat an over matched Memphis Grizzlies team, and a dangerous but flawed Houston Rockets.
The biggest knock on the Warriors is that they haven’t yet played a legitimate threat in the playoffs. While true that the Jazz looked pretty good against the Clippers, who were taken very seriously just a few weeks ago, the Spurs are an actual title contenders.
Go Spurs Go
The Spurs limp into the third round of the playoffs, missing veteran point guard Tony Parker (out with a ruptured quadriceps since Game 2 of conference semis) and dragging along a one-legged Kawhi Leonard, who sat out San Antonio’s Game 6 victory over the Houston Rockets. The Spurs are a machine and that theory will be fully tested during the Western Conference finals.
Key Match up To Watch
Draymond Green vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: With one fabulous Game 6 performance, LaMarcus Aldridge went from being “The star his team’s fans most wanted to trade” to “The most begrudged postseason hero in recent memory.” Now, will the pendulum swing back? Aldridge has averaged 18.2 PPG and 8.3 RPG while shooting 45.9%, numbers that are essentially in line with his season averages. With no Parker, with Manu Ginobili providing limited offensive contributions and with Popovich facing the possibility that his traditional lineups will get played off the court by Golden State’s versatility, the burden to support Leonard on offense falls first to Aldridge.
There might not be a player in the league better suited to making Aldridge’s life miserable than Green, who will force him to work every possession to establish position, bump him hard when he tries to swoop through the paint, contest his jumpers and hooks alike, and force him to cover ground on the other end of the court and in transition.
Coaching Could Play Huge Role
Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown has done an admirable job stepping in on short notice for Steve Kerr, who is sidelined indefinitely after experiencing debilitating symptoms related to his previous back surgery. According to Brown, he’s remained in regular contact with Kerr and delivered his boss’s messages to the players. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich represents the toughest challenge any stand-in coach could face.
Not only is Popovich the league’s longest-tenured and most experienced coach, but he just turned San Antonio’s second-round series on its head with his game plan for defending Harden and his implementation of defensive adjustments to slow Houston’s attack and offensive adjustments to free up Aldridge and make use of Pau Gasol.
Prediction: Even if the Spurs were healthy, I don’t believe it wouldn’t matter. The Warriors are just too loaded and focused on the NBA finals. Durant and Curry will have a monster series. Look for the Warriors to take out the Spurs in five games.