Do Not Sleep on the Spurs
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have battled in the NBA Finals for the past two years. The Warriors took the first series and the Cavaliers took the second. Both teams remain favorites to meet in the Finals again this year. However, is there a team in the league that has a shot at ruining a Cleveland and Golden State Finals tiebreaker? The answer is yes.
The Cavaliers are gaining momentum after signing Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. They remain first in the east while Kevin Love and J.R. Smith sit back and get healthy for the playoffs. They have a roster that is stacked, raking in the highest payroll in the NBA at $129,151,867. While other teams in the east are young and talented, no other team has a roster that can last 7 games with Cleveland. Cleveland will make it to the finals and be ready for the rematch but it’s going to be a much tougher road for the Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors now have to finish the season without superstar Kevin Durant who is out with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise in his left knee. With no Durant, the Warriors’ 146-game streak without consecutive losses ended losing against the Wizards and the Bulls. The Warriors bounced back with a win in Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Stephen Curry seemed to find his rhythm scoring 31 points while Klay Thompson had 29 points. The Splash Brothers will have to stay hot throughout the end of the season if they want to remain the number one seed while KD recovers. The Spurs currently sit 2.5 games back and are a true threat to ruin a Cleveland and Golden State Finals rematch.
The Spurs have not missed the playoffs for two consecutive decades. During that span, they have: 5 NBA championships, 7 first place finishes in the west, and 4 second place finishes. As their legendary roster ages and players get closer to retirement, the Spurs still manage to keep reloading and remain a top 2 team in the west.
The Spurs owe a lot of their success to one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Gregg Popovich, who has been able to win with several different rosters. Coach Popovich is tremendous at forming game plans and making sure his team knows how to attack the other team’s weakness. While the Spurs have Coach Popovich and a healthy roster, they have a shot at making the NBA Finals.
The Spurs are currently number 2 in opponent’s points per game and also number 2 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage. The Spurs defense is fast, tough and could wreak havoc on the Warriors’ shooters. The Spurs also have big men that can expose Golden State in a 7 game series. LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol have played very well this season combining for nearly 30 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists per game. We should see these numbers increase in the playoffs and especially against the Warriors small lineup. Kawhi “The Claw” Leonard is leading the team with 26.1 points per game while still playing world class defense. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili might have lost a step or two, but their leadership and experience is still vital for this team to get a championship. Parker and Ginobili know they don’t have much time left in this league and that this might be their last shot.
If the Spurs and Warriors meet in the Western Conference Finals, Coach Popovich and the Spurs will be very tough to beat. The Warriors are going to have to hit tough shots and make sure not to turn the ball over or Steve Kerr might end up breaking a clipboard or two and watch another ring slip away.
Sources: teamrankings.com, basketball-reference.com, nba.com, espn.com