1. Given the way the game was going before Kawhi Leonard’s injury occurred in the third quarter, if Leonard doesn’t go down, do the Spurs win Game 1?
According to ESPN Stats & Info, this was the San Antonio Spurs first loss in 317 games when ahead by 25 points under Gregg Popovich.
Streaks like that don’t end for no reason. There has to be a fairly drastic event to cause such a result. Kawhi Leonard’s stomach-turning ankle-twist played that role in Game 1.
You have to believe that as good as this Golden State Warriors team is, Pop would have been able to make it 318-0 had Kawhi been able to play the entirety of the game. The Spurs lack someone that can consistently create offense for both himself and others after Kawhi, in some ways similar to the general roster construction of teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, respectively.
The Spurs offense flows completely through Kawhi, while its defense relies heavily on his ability to cut off large chunks of the court and save Pau Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge from looking depressingly old. With Kawhi in, I think Pop and company could have done just enough to survive the classic Warriors run that eventually wiped away their lead.
Without a doubt. The difference in the game once Kawhi went down was immediately noticeable. The game just felt like the Spurs trying to hold Golden State off as opposed to taking it to them. Leonard had 26/8/3 at the time he went down. He was on the way to potentially a career landmark game having the opportunity to punch the Warriors in the mouth right from Game 1. The Spurs would have won by a large margin had Kawhi been able to continue. LaMarcus Aldridge has his moments but he needs Kawhi in there to loosen up the defense.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the San Antonio Spurs win that game if Kawhi Leonard doesn’t go down. I actually thought they were still going to win once he went down but the Golden State Warriors finally put things together to overcome that huge deficit.
The way Kawhi was getting what he wanted on the offensive end and taking advantage of the Warriors switching defense, Golden State struggled to stop him. Once Kawhi went out, the Spurs lost their mojo and their go-to guy in late shot clock situations. Golden State became aware and amped up the pressure and San Antonio folded and that was all she wrote.
Yes. The Spurs were performing like a well-oiled machine and not even the Dubs could’ve come back from that if Kawhi stayed in the game. Kawhi was an absurd +21 while he was on the court as San Antonio took advantage of Golden State’s rustiness which tells you all about how good Kawhi was in game 1. With a player like Kawhi, a coach like Pop, and a lead that big, San Antonio would’ve easily taken Game 1 if not for Kawhi’s ankle injuries.
Kawhi's ankles are really taking a beating. #NBAPlayoffs
via @clippittv pic.twitter.com/Tj5jUgYcqm
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 14, 2017
2. The Spurs blew a 25-point lead in Game 1. Did they miss their window to steal a game in Golden State?
It really depends on Kawhi’s status.
Without him, they absolutely did. This team doesn’t stand a chance at going into Oracle and taking one without their MVP candidate. Sorry, but it just isn’t happening, not after the way Golden State seemed to rediscover their rhythm during the second half of Game 1. A week long break can generally lead to a hangover for teams and the Warriors certainly had to chug down plenty of Green Gatorade and McGriddle’s to get over it during the first half. Once they did, largely boosted by Kawhi’s departure (for the sake of the analogy, Kawhi’s injury was like a boot-and-rally for the Dubs), they were back to their normal dominant selves.
With him, it’s a slightly different story.
It’s hard to imagine San Antonio getting a better shot than a 25-point lead in Oracle. No, it isn’t the same atmosphere it was two years ago, but the Warriors always seem to show up on home court. Nobody likes to send the wine-and-cheese boys from Silicon Valley into a frenzy like KD and the Splash Bros.
Anything is possible and I’ve learned better than to count out Pop and for that matter, Kawhi. But I’d give them only a 10 percent chance at being able to steal one in Oracle over the remainder of this series with Kawhi, and far less than that without him.
Regardless of what happens going forward, this was literally a missed opportunity to steal one. Winning on the road in the playoffs is paramount to success and you have to find a way to pull out a victory when you are up 25. It is the conference finals and those opportunities do not come around often. This should, however, put to bed all of those “Is Kawhi really MVP worthy” hot takes stemming from the Spurs being able to pull off that overtime victory vs. Houston. This was absolutely a missed opportunity and could hurt them at the end of the day.
I do believe they lost their chance to steal one in Golden State however I do believe they will win one game at home. Coming into this series, I predicted it would be tough but I had the Warriors winning in 5. I don’t envision the Spurs winning a game in Oracle because I’m sure the Warriors will be much sharper going forward. They had their chance but unfortunate circumstances wilted that opportunity.
It depends on Kawhi’s status. If we’re talking about being able to steal one of the first two games in Oracle, then no they can’t. However, if we were talking about a Game 6, then yes the Spurs have a chance to steal one. I have the Dubs winning in 6, but San Antonio taking Game 6 is also a possibility, given the talent of the Spurs.
Durant trying to jump start this Warriors offense. #NBAPlayoffs
via @clippittv pic.twitter.com/lZjk4qxl2l
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 14, 2017
3. What impressed you the most about the Warriors comeback?
At this point, do these Warriors comebacks still really impress anyone? Sure, it was against Pop and the Spurs and broke that unbelievable 317 game win streak. But Warriors making wild, unpredictable comebacks has become… predictable. They seem to thrive on digging themselves into holes, only to eventually dig themselves out.
Sure, it can get them into trouble from time-to-time and games have slipped away from them, but the Warriors have become wildly adept at making these exact types of comebacks. So realistically, nothing really jumps out when you look at this one, especially with the Spurs missing such a key element.
My hot take: I do not have a take. This type thing has become something of an expectation for the Warriors, which is really a testimony to how dominant they can be when fully clicking and engaged.
When Kawhi was out they immediately attacked both offensively and defensively. They looked lost at first for large portions of the game but they seemed to relish the opportunity to play pressure defense and throw some doubles the Spurs way. Their defensive energy transferred to their offensive game and the rest was business as usual. They are super explosive.
Absolutely nothing if we’re being honest. For one, Golden State is known for their impressive comebacks so last night was nothing new. With the way they shoot the ball and can get hot from downtown, the Warriors can make up a 20-point deficit in no time. When they decide to lock in defensively, they’re hard to score against and that defense opens them up to everything that they like to get offensively.
The real reason I’m not impressed is because of the injury to Kawhi Leonard and the lack of focus from the Warriors. Golden State doesn’t win that game if Kawhi doesn’t go down. Sure, it does take a lot of effort to come back from 25 despite the situation, but the comeback doesn’t impress me because of the injury. Also, the Warriors played a very sloppy game. They weren’t focused, the ball movement wasn’t sharp and their communication on defense was lackluster. The injury devastated the Spurs and they just couldn’t hold on.
Many fans of the game have grown accustomed to watching the Warriors come back from big deficits so, at this point, it isn’t really that surprising anymore. If there’s anything impressive about this game, it was that they finally played like themselves once Kawhi went down (which says a lot about how great Kawhi is). They were cutting off passing lanes and hitting shots they are used to making.
Curry giving the Oracle crowd a show! #NBAPlayoffs
via @clippittv pic.twitter.com/oOu3p07hS8
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 14, 2017
4. Do the Spurs have any upside heading into Game 2?
The Spurs without Kawhi are, simply put, not a playoff basketball team, nonetheless one that can contend with what might be one of the best rosters of all-time.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been up-and-down throughout this postseason and simply isn’t the dynamic scoring option he once was, Tony Parker’s season is over and career in question and Manu Ginobili is… really old. We can all talk about how great Patty Mills, Danny Green and Jonathan Simmons have been at different points this season for the Spurs, but I really just don’t think that’s the group of guys you want leading your team into a playoff matchup against this Golden State squad.
That ragtag Kawhi-less bunch did manage to take a clinching Game 6 in Houston to advance to face these Golden State Warriors, but how willing are you to rely on Aldridge, Ginobili and the rest of this Spurs team to hold out over a 7-game series?
Especially with James Harden definitely not point shaving (wink), you can’t put much faith in that happening! I have a profound amount of respect for Pop and the entire Spurs organizational culture, but it’s just hard to compete over time without your best guys, especially when those guys are as pivotal to the system as Kawhi is in San Antonio.
Again, I’ll give myself an out and announce my love for the Spurs and Pop… but without Kawhi it’s hard to imagine the Spurs competing over the remainder of this series. In fact, their best chance without Leonard is probably to hope the Warriors underestimate them, come out slow and don’t ever recover like they did in Game 1.
I don’t exactly consider “hopefully their team thinks our team is worse than we actually are” is not a strategy that tends to consistently work come playoff time, in my opinion.
Johnathan Simmons and Dejounte Murray are young guys who are not afraid of the moment. Both of these guys can really play and are efficient as well. Neither are Kawhi Leonard but they play their games and give valuable minutes offensively and defensively. If they can just get LaMarcus Aldridge going a little bit they can keep things interesting. I’m looking for the Spurs to attack more inside if Kawhi can’t go. Aldridge is too tall for Draymond Green and too strong for Durant. They need to exploit that.
No. My biggest fear is that Kawhi won’t be able to return and if that’s the case then this series will be a sweep. LaMarcus Aldridge is obviously their advantage in the post but as we saw last night, he can only keep it up but for so long. He dominated early on in the game but couldn’t buy a bucket in the second half so I’m not sure how much they can rely on him.
The best SAS could do for Game 2 is trying to make it tough on Golden State like they did in Game 1. Guys like Simmons and Murray like Kirkland alluded to, can play some disruptive ball that could cause Golden State to play a little frantically. However, these are the Golden State Warriors we are talking about and they are as dominant as ever.
5. What’s your prediction for Game 2?
C’mon son. It’s the Warriors.
If Kawhi can go I’ll take the Spurs in Game 2. If not, Warriors large.
A Golden State win is coming in Game 2, with or without Kawhi Leonard. After watching themselves in Game 1, they will be much sharper and more disciplined on both sides of the ball. Kevin Durant said it himself in the post-game conference:
“I think we came out a bit too relaxed to start the game and they (San Antonio Spurs) hit us in the mouth early.”
With the Warriors fully aware of how lackadaisical they were, I’m expecting them to come out strong in the next game.
Probably no Kawhi so, Dubs.