Spurs Chances Against the Undefeated Warriors
The San Antonio Spurs punched their ticket into the Western Conference Finals with a 114-75 Game 6 win against the Houston Rockets. Even without the availability of superstar Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs embarrassed James Harden and the Rockets in their own building. After a two-year absence, the Spurs have found themselves back in the Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have yet to be challenged by anyone this postseason, going a perfect 8-0 during the first two rounds. Most experts would agree that the Spurs were the only challenging opponent for the Warriors once postseason play began, but now we will be seeing it live. This is the first time that two teams with 60 plus wins will be facing off in the playoffs which will hopefully lead to the Warriors first threat this postseason. Despite the loss of point guard Tony Parker, the Spurs have several matchups in their favor that could lead to an upset in this series.
With no timetable for the return of Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, interim coach Mike Brown will be forced to coach the beginning of this series. The Spurs may have already won the coaching matchup with Kerr in the lineup simply because no one has done it better over the past two decades than Gregg Popovich. Pop is one of the best in-game coaches that this league has ever seen, and if there was a coach to slow down this Warrior team, it is him. Even if you look back to the Spurs last game, Popovich won a road playoff game by a large margin without his best player in Kawhi Leonard to end the series. Popovich knows how to find a team’s weakness and it exploit it when no one else can find one. The Spurs might have less talent heading into this series, but it will be highly unlikely that someone can say they were out-coached when this series is over.
The Spurs have suffered a few key injuries over the past several weeks of this postseason which has forced a few other plays to take a bigger role moving forward. The first player to expect to see in an increased role is Lamarcus Aldridge. He scored a season high in the Spurs game six win with 34 points and 12 rebounds leading all players. When many thought Kawhi Leonard’s absence would spell disaster for the Spurs, Aldridge took matters into his own hands. Even Popovich had a few things to say about Aldridge’s performance and he rarely speaks out individual players after a game.
“Well, you know, he’s been like that through these first two rounds,”. “He’s really turned it on, demanded the ball, got in good position using his body, and not always settling for a jumper. [He got] to the rim, did a really good job.”
Heading into this series, the Spurs must find a way to exploit the Warriors size down low and feed the ball to Aldridge in the post. The problem is that if Leonard is healthy, the Spurs like to feed him the ball as much as possible. To have any chance in this series, Leonard and Aldridge must be able to coexist on the floor at the same time. Leonard has the ability to drive to the hole at any point in the game, while Aldridge can post up anyone on their team to knock down a shot. With a 62-18 advantage over the Rockets in points in the paint during Game 6, it isn’t hard to figure out where the Spurs strengths lie.
Taking down the 2017 Warriors will be no easy task for any team, but if one team can do it, it is Popovich’s Spurs. Getting into a shootout with Golden State is one thing the Spurs must avoid. They do not have the firepower on the outside to trade shot for shot with the Warriors. Instead, they must slow the game down and milk out every possession to methodically ware down the Steph Curry led Warriors. A series victory over the heavily favored Warriors for Popovich and the Spurs would solidify their legacy as one of the best team’s over the last two decades.