No. 2 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 7 Spurs
NBA First-Round Playoff Series
Game 1: Warriors 113, Spurs 92, Saturday, Oakland, Calif.
Game 2: Monday, 9:30 p.m., Oakland
Game 3: Thursday, 8:30 p.m., AT&T Center
Game 4: Sunday, 2:30 p.m., AT&T Center
*Game 5: Tuesday, April 24, Time TBD, Oakland
*Game 6: Thursday, April 26, Time TBD, AT&T Center
*Game 7: Saturday, April 28, Time TBD, Oakland
Follow along on Twitter for live updates and analysis from the KENS 5 Spurs team of David Flores, Javi Perez, Vinnie Vinzetta, and Joe Reinagel.(For mobile users, click here.)
Sometimes the other team is better. Much better.
That realization had to have washed over the Spurs as they got dismantled by the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday in Oakland, Calif.
Even with two-time MVP Stephen Curry sidelined, Golden State dominated every phase of the game in a 113-92 rout that lay bare the wide talent gap between the two teams that have won the last five NBA Western Conference titles.
The Warriors never trailed and led by double digits throughout most of the game. The Spurs, who struggled to make the playoffs as a No. 7 seed, had talked about making a fresh start in the postseason. But after Saturday's blowout, they didn't look much different than the team that got swept by Golden State in the conference finals last year.
Carrying the weight of a nine-game road losing streak, the Silver and Black will try to defy the long odds and steal a win on the Warriors' home floor when the teams meet in Game 2 at 9:30 p.m. Monday.
"We've got to regroup, feel hurt, upset, kind of desperate," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Saturday. "We don't want to go home 0-2. But at the same time, we've got to be smarter. We've got to watch video, see the mistakes we made, and try to act accordingly.
"Offensively, we're going to have to move the ball better, sharper, be more aggressive, and see what happens. We understand that we're not favorites. We're underdogs. We talked about it."
Never one to sugarcoat things, Ginobili said it will take a Herculean effort to beat the Warriors on the road – even if the Spurs play their best game.
"To get a win here, we've got to overachieve," he said. "We've got to do better than we think we can do even, so we'll fight as hard as we can in Game 2."
Unlike each of the previous three seasons, the Warriors did not finish with the best record in the league this year, advancing to the playoffs as a No. 2 seed. Golden State finished second to Houston in the Western Conference and lost 10 of its last 17 games. But after Saturday's beatdown of the Spurs, one is left wondering if any team, even the Rockets, can beat the Warriors in a seven-game series.
Curry, who hasn't played since going down with a sprained knee March 23, is expected to miss the entire first-round series. The Spurs remain without All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who played in only nine games during the regular season as he struggled to overcome a quadriceps injury. Leonard has been rehabbing in New York since last month, and isn't expected to return to the lineup during the playoffs.
Even without Curry, the Warriors pack a potent punch, as the Silver and Black would attest. With a roster that includes All-NBA forward Kevin Durant and two other All-Stars, guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green, Golden State will be difficult to dethrone.
Thompson scored 27 points and Durant had 25 in Saturday's blowout, but it was the Warriors' swarming defense that knocked the Spurs on their heels early and set the tone of the game. San Antonio never got going offensively, shooting 40 percent overall (32/80) and 40.9 percent (9/22) from the three-point line.
The Warriors also punished the Silver and Black under the boards, finishing with a 57-40 edge in rebounding. Golden State coach Steve Kerr changed his starting lineup, inserting Andre Iguodala for Quinn Cook at point guard and going with JaVale McGee at center. Kerr's decision paid nice dividends.
McGee played only 16 minutes, but he scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter and blocked two shots. His rejection of a shot by LaMarcus Aldridge in the paint early gave the Warriors a big boost, and Iguodala also got a block and six defensive rebounds to help stymie S.A.
"They are a very good defensive team, and they started with a lineup of all very athletic, long wings," Ginobili said. "They switch everything. They're always very good at switching back when you have a mismatch and rotate, and with their athleticism, they are able to rotate properly. So first quarter, we couldn't score.
"Offensively, they're always a threat because of the type of players they have. I think the first quarter the problem was offensively (for S.A.) for sure. And then we fueled them with some silly mistakes that against a team like them, you can't make. So, perfect storm."
Thompson had one of the best playoff shooting performances of his career, hitting 11 of 13 shots, including 5 of 6 from the three-point line. Durant, who made 9 of 17 shots, finished with eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. Golden State shot 54.3 percent and hit 10 of 22 three-pointers.
"Durant and Klay got away from us, like many times, way too many times," Ginobili said.
Asked what the Spurs can do to keep Thompson from having another big shooting game, Ginobili replied: "We made a few mistakes that helped him to get off. But there are some times that he's shooting some ridiculous shots. He hasn't even turned to see the rim and he made them. You know against them it can happen, and it can happen with Durant, too. Things that you've got to take.
"What you can't do is make the mistakes we made on switches, and we gave them layups and transition points. We didn't turn the ball over. That's the good point of our game, but overall, they were so much better in every aspect of the game that we had no shot – even without Klay having a great night like that. So it was a very poor performance."
Rudy Gay scored 15 points off the bench to lead San Antonio's scoring, and Aldridge and Bryn Forbes each finished with 14. No other San Antonio player scored in double figures. Gay, who also had six rebounds, started the second half for Kyle Anderson and gave the Spurs another much-needed scoring option besides Aldridge.
Harassed by the Warriors' blitzing defense from the get-go, Aldridge hit 5 of 12 shots and finished with only two rebounds in 24 minutes. He averaged 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds during the regular season, leading the Spurs in both categories.
The big challenge for the Spurs in Game 2 will be to get Aldridge off to a good start, but that will be difficult to do if no one else steps up and takes some of the scoring load off his shoulders. To that end, Popovich could start Gay.
As usual, Popovich didn't pull any punches while discussing his team's lopsided loss after Game 1.
"I thought we were very prepared physically and mentally," he said. "But I was mistaken. As I said, we looked like deer in the headlights. The defense was really poor as far as following game plan of the first quarter, and it's a bad combination to play defense like that and not shoot at the other end."
The series shifts to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4.