Posted on May 12, 2017, by Travis Pulver
It was bound to happen sooner or later. The new kids on the block—the Golden State Warriors—were going to face off with the San Antonio Spurs for the right to play in the NBA Finals. Circumstances didn’t permit it to happen the last couple of years. But with Golden State sweeping the competition and San Antonio destroying Houston Thursday night it finally will.
When it comes to playoff-caliber basketball, it doesn’t get any better than this. San Antonio has been one of the best in the NBA for a couple of decades. They are the epitome of team-oriented basketball and seem to play at a high level no matter who is on the floor. Golden State has been as dominant as a team can be for the last couple of years.
The Warriors have been to the last two NBA Finals and would love nothing more than to make it three in a row. But to do so this time, they will have to get past the San Antonio Spurs first. So—can they?
Golden State fans will be quick to say “yes, ” but the task is not going to be an easy win. San Antonio won two of three games between the two during the regular season and have gone 5-5 against the Warriors over the last three years. But regular season games are difficult to judge with both teams resting players.
The rosters are not quite the same now as they were three years ago either. Yes, the major pieces may still be in place, but when titans like these two teams meet every contribution counts—not just the that of the stars.
If you look at just the rosters alone, the Warriors have an edge with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in the starting lineup. They can hit the deep shot as well as drive the lane and the defensive presence isn’t half bad either.
San Antonio’s roster doesn’t have the flash or name recognition quite like Golden State’s does. But it does contain arguably the best two-way player in the league right now, Kawhi Leonard. While he is hobbled a bit by an ankle injury suffered in Game Five against the Rockets, we will not know how much it will affect his game, if at all, until the series starts on Sunday.
But while the Spurs may not have the superstar power the Warriors have, they have something that has allowed them to make up for lack of star wattage for the last 20 years—head coach Gregg Popovich. Mike Brown is not a bad coach, but his ability to make adjustments in-game or during a series pales in comparison to Popovich.
If there is anyone that can figure out how to neutralize Golden State’s arsenal enough to win a seven-game series, it is Popovich.
However, while the Spurs may have been able to topple the Houston Rockets without their two best players (Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard), the Golden State Warriors will not fall so easily. San Antonio will have to do what few have been able to against Golden State—slow them down.
Golden State likes to play small ball. They will want to keep San Antonio’s big guys moving so they can wear them down. The Spurs can’t allow that. They have to win the battle of the boards, and they have to make Golden State work for every basket they get.
San Antonio is capable of getting the job done. But at the same time, stopping Golden State is easier said than done.
After a lackluster postseason that has been rife with blowout wins and bad games, this series is what NBA fans have been waiting for—the two best teams in the conference (and possibly the league) going head to head.
Vegas sees the Warriors as heavy favorites to win the series (-1600; a $100 bet will win $6.25; the same $100 would win 900 if put on the Spurs (+900) and they won). But don’t expect it to be an easy series for either team.
Look for whoever wins it to need all seven games to get the job done. Game One is Sunday at 3:30 PM ET and will be broadcast on ABC.