The Warriors have faced all of the other top 10 teams in the West this season in a postseason series during their current five-year playoff run. Of those other nine teams, the only ones they haven’t beaten are the Los Angeles Clippers (lost in seven-game series in 2013/14) and the San Antonio Spurs, who defeated the Warriors in six games back in the second round of the 2012/13 postseason. Golden State now have a chance to rectify the latter, when they take on the second-seeded Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, beginning with Game 1 at Oracle Arena on Sunday LIVE on Kwesé Sports 1 and the Kwesé App.
The Spurs were one of two teams in the NBA to beat the Warriors multiple times this season, and won the season series against Golden State two games to one.
25.10.16 at Golden State: Spurs 129, Warriors 100
San Antonio dealt the Warriors their worst margin of defeat in the very first game of the 2016/17 regular-season campaign. With the score tied at 18-18, the Spurs closed the final three minutes of first quarter on a 13-2 run and never looked back.
11.03.17 at San Antonio: Spurs 107, Warriors 85
Already without Kevin Durant due to a knee injury, Golden State elected to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for their fifth game in seven nights, as the Spurs handled the undermanned Warriors. San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray as well, so it’s not as if they were at full strength either.
29.03.17 at San Antonio: Warriors 110, Spurs 98
San Antonio scored the first 15 points of the game and led by as many as 22 late in the first quarter, but Golden State outscored the Spurs 93-65 in the final three frames to come back and achieve their ninth straight win.
MATCHUP AT A GLANCE
Regular-season Ranks in Parenthesis
1st in West
115.9 PPG (1st)
44.4 RPG (7th)
30.4 APG (1st)
2nd in West
105.3 PPG (14th)
43.9 RPG (T-10th)
23.8 APG (T-7th)
GSW: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia
SAS: Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol
INJURY & ROSTER NOTES
GSW: Kevon Looney (left-hip strain) is out.
SAS: Kawhi Leonard (sprained left ankle) has been given the green light to play. Tony Parker (ruptured left-quadriceps tendon) is out.
SAN ANTONIO SCOUTING REPORT
When you get to this point in the playoffs, only the best teams remain. That’s certainly the case in the West, where the Warriors have a daunting task ahead of them. Only Golden State finished with a better record than the Spurs this season, and over the last three regular seasons, San Antonio’s five victories over the Warriors are two more than any other team in the league.
It’s the 20th consecutive season the Spurs have made the playoffs, and the only remaining constant over that span is head coach Gregg Popovich. Whereas the Warriors had the NBA’s top offense in the regular season, the Spurs had the best defense, making these Western Conference Finals the fourth instance in the last 30 years that the top teams on both sides of the ball have faced each other in a postseason series. Each of the prior three times, the eventual victor of that series went on to win the NBA title. Kawhi Leonard is one of the premier two-way players in the game, and ranked ninth in the NBA during the regular season with a career-best 25.5 points per game. If San Antonio is going to prevail in the series, chances are Leonard – who missed the Spurs Game 6 victory in Houston to advance to the Conference Finals with an ankle injury – will have played a major part.
PTS: Curry (25.3)
REB: Durant (8.3)
AST: Green (7.0)
PTS: Leonard (25.5)
REB: Gasol (7.8)
AST: Parker (4.5)
MATCHUP TO WATCH
One of the reasons Leonard is going to have to play well is because the Spurs are more shorthanded now than they were entering the postseason. Longtime fixture Tony Parker suffered a ruptured left-quadriceps tendon in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series and is out for the remainder of the playoffs, leaving San Antonio rather thin at the point guard position.
Dejounte Murray posted a double-double in just 24 minutes in their series-clinching win over the Rockets, but he is a rookie and one wonders how his relative lack of experience may reveal itself on an even brighter stage. Patty Mills has taken the bulk of the point guard minutes in Parker’s absence, and averaged 14.8 points and 4.5 assists in the final four games of that series.
Beyond those two, however, the Spurs don’t have another point guard on their roster, and that duo face a tough task in matching up with the league’s two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry. You could make the case Curry had his coming-out party the last time these two teams met in a postseason series, and now four years later, he has an opportunity to provide the Warriors with a distinct positional advantage if he’s able to outduel the Mills-Murray tandem. If Curry is able to get going offensively or can get the Spurs’ point guards into foul trouble, that may prove to be the ultimate difference in the series.
By Andy Fahey for gswarriors.com
First appeared on NBA.com Global