Golden State at San Antonio
Time: 8 PM CT (ESPN)
Golden State Leads Series 2-0
Spread: GSW -8.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
This game still has the ringing of one that might be tough to bet on. Kevin Durant when told that Kawhi Leonard would still not be suiting up for Game 3, said, “What? I still don’t believe it.” Knowing the wiles of one Gregg Popovich, we are unsure whether “we” should believe it either. Without Leonard available, this series will all but conclude by the Golden State Warriors likely taking a 3-0 lead.
With Leonard on the court, the teams are much more closely matched, and it could be either team’s game to win. Assuming Leonard really is unavailable, the 8.5-point spread set in favor of the Warriors by oddsmakers at 5dimes makes sense. In fact, without Leonard able to matchup against Durant, the Warriors could easily push the lead to double digits and cover the spread.
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Leonard showed in Game 1 that he really is that transcendent. The Spurs led Game 1 by 20 points at halftime, only to collapse after Leonard sustained a high ankle sprain on an ignominious play involving what many considered to be a cheap basketball move by none other than Zaza Pachulia.
Pachulia slid underneath Leonard as he landed on a three-point attempt, and the remainder of Game 1 was all Warriors as they raced from behind to win the game in eventuality 113-111. The Spurs melted apart coming down the stretch without its MVP candidate in tow, and Game 2 was a full 48 minutes of that repeated. The Warriors won Game 2 by 36 points, tallying 136 points of their own as the Spurs struggled despite the strong play of Jonathon Simmons, who started in lieu of Leonard.
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Simmons simply cannot play extra-worldly enough to cover Leonard’s absence though. While he is a strong defender and growing talent on the offensive end, he is expected to match step-for-step with Durant essentially, if the Spurs are to have a fighting chance in the series. Simmons had 22 points, three assists and three rebounds in Game 2, but he did not get a lot of help from his teammates.
Only one other Spur (Davis Bertrans, 13 points) scored in double-figures, and San Antonio shot just 37 percent from the floor while turning it over 18 times in the game. Simmons did an admirable job on Durant defensively in limiting the star to just 16 points, but Stephen Curry had his second big game of the series, notching 29 points and hitting six threes. Curry had 40 points in Game 1, and he appears to be locked-in for the most important stretch of Golden State’s season as it readies itself for a likely showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 Finals.
Before that matchup can occur, however, the Dubs have to rally past San Antonio two more times, one of those times being tonight. The Spurs won 61 games in the regular season, but Leonard’s 25 points per game and lockdown defense were instrumental in the team compiling such a good regular season.
Without him, San Antonio has to have multiple players step up and play far above the level at which their collective seasons have been. Among those players are LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, a tandem of former All-Stars who combined for just 15 points on collective 6 of 16 shooting in Game 3. While Dewayne Dedmon and Dejounte Murray are upcoming role players off the bench, the Spurs cannot win this series without its marquee names performing something close to what they once did during their vaunted careers.
Aldridge has fallen off dramatically since leaving the Portland Trail Blazers two offseasons ago, and Gasol seems to be a shadow of himself, evidenced by the fact he saw just 16 minutes of court time in Game 2.
Meanwhile, the Warriors just need to play Golden State basketball: The team can afford for one or two of its four superstars to have off nights and still win the game. Given that Klay Thompson has yet to find the range in this series, he is one guy whose downfall has hardly affected the outcomes in Golden State’s easy victories. He has shot just 28.6 percent in this series while averaging 8.5 points per game over the first two contests.
In the 2017 playoffs, Thompson is shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three. Without him amping those figures up, it will prove to be a source of problems against a much tougher Cavs team should Cleveland and Golden State square off in the Finals for the third-year straight as most fully expect.