San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
Game 1: Saturday, April 14th, 2018
Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Time: 2 PM (CT), ABC/ESPN
Spread: GSW -8
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Golden State Warriors ended the 2017-18 season without Stephen Curry, limping along to win just four of its final 10 games. The San Antonio Spurs can relate. Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs to a 47-35 record as it struggled to play without its superstar Kawhi Leonard. Both Curry and Leonard are expected to be out for the duration of this series, which adds a unique twist to see two teams without their respective leaders.
The Warriors are still nevertheless 8-point favorites in Game 1 at home, where the Dubs posted a 29-12 mark this season while having gone 58-24 overall, its lowest win total of the last four seasons. Many still expect Golden State to make another Finals appearance this year, but the challenge begins with San Antonio and (arguably?) the league’s best coach Gregg Popovich doing all he can to take down the vaunted Warriors.
Let us take a look at the specific matchups in this series in an attempt to discern how it finally all will shake out, beginning with the respective backcourts.
Starting Guards: Quinn Cook and Klay Thompson vs. Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills
Obviously, this backcourt matchup loses a lot of its luster without Steph Curry in the mix, but it also really evens the tables. Quinn Cook is little more than a D-League call-up, but he is a very good one at that, and this could be a chance for his NBA career to really take off if he has a good series. He will square off at the 1-spot against Dejounte Murray, who is basically the Spurs’ heir apparent to the declining Tony Parker (who now comes off the bench). Patty Mills is also a point guard but will start alongside Murray at the 2-spot.
The Australian can really get cooking (especially as we saw in the Olympics), so keep an eye on Mills to throw some flames for San Antonio. The best player of this quartet of backcourt players is Klay Thompson, who essentially has to play like a superstar in this series with Curry out due to injury. Thompson could be a No. 1 option on a number of NBA teams, however, though, so expect him to do his usual and drop more triples than usual since Curry will not be there with his typical high usage rate and shot attempts.
In fact, it is Thompson who gives the Dubs a slight advantage in the backcourt. He can really heat up and fire on all cylinders. This will be a perfect chance for the son of Mychal Thompson to remind the Association just how good he really is.
Starting Frontcourt: Kevin Durant/Draymond Green/JaVale McGee vs. Danny Green/Kyle Anderson/LaMarcus Aldridge
Once again, as with the backcourts, this is really a matchup between six players with one supreme standout. That, of course, is former MVP Kevin Durant, who could be in to have the series of his life in helping carry the Warriors without Curry. It will not be all Thompson, obviously. Durant is fully capable of leading the Warriors to victory in this series but also look for Draymond Green to take charge more offensively to pick up some of the slack.
Green is a jack-of-all-trades forward who led the Warriors in assists, but he will need to take more shots to help fill the void left behind by Steph. San Antonio will hope LaMarcus Aldridge can play more like the “Portland Aldridge” as he was once arguably the league’s best power forward. Aldridge is silky smooth on the baselines with one of the best mid-range jumpers in the game, and it will take consistent stroking on his part to keep San Antonio in this series.
If nothing else can be said about these starting lineups, it is that Golden State’s simply packs a lot more scoring punch. All things said that has to make Golden State overwhelming favorites, even outside of the fact that it has home court advantage and a raucous Oracle Arena supporting it. While the Dubs did lose 12 regular season games at home, it would be entirely unsurprising to see the team turn that into its major advantage now that the postseason is here.
The Warriors have a lot of experience and defense coming off its deep bench. From David West and Andre Iguodala to youngsters Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell, Golden State really backs its starters up with some serious talent.
Iguodala is still one of the league’s best defenders, as he reminded everyone by winning a Finals MVP award two seasons ago (even though many felt LeBron James should have won the award in a losing effort).
The Warriors also have sharpshooting chucker Nick Young who can come in and fill it up, along with the savvy leadership of Shaun Livingston, who should see major minutes in this series if Cook proves himself not quite ready to take this big stage.
Livingston is a major threat from mid-range and not very mistake prone, so the Warriors second unit really should be a big edge that helps make a difference in this series. It will be difficult for the now-aged Tony Parker to stay with the 6’7″ Livingston. He has already proven to be a major factor in the Warriors’ past postseason runs.
The Spurs, of course, counter with two legends like Parker and Manu Ginobili in the second unit; and, that pair could factor in largely in crunch time given their experience and tenacity under pressure.
While San Antonio also boasts a still-effective Pau Gasol off the bench at the 4/5 spots, it is hard to compare to what the Warriors have going, especially since the Spurs’ best three reserves are all mere shadows of the talents they were, say, even half a decade ago.
The Bottom Line:
Given that San Antonio is basically outclassed at every position, it is hard to imagine them managing to do more than win a game in this series and extend it to a five-game series. Sure, Popovich can work wonders and is probably the best Xs and Os man in the league today, but Leonard’s decision to bail on the season crippled San Antonio, and it nearly cost the team a chance at even appearing in the playoffs, which would have been uncharted ground for Gregg Popovich’s lustrous career and the organizations long-standing record of excellence. Still, this is the three-time defending Western Conference champs it is facing, and even without Curry, the Warriors are going to be ready to tune up for his return in round two.
Warriors in 5.
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