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Random dribbles on the Spurs’ impressive 87-79 win over the visiting Warriors on Saturday.
1. It was just a regular season game, but it was also a bit of a statement by the Spurs. They let the Warriors know that winning in their building won’t be easy — even for a team like the Warriors, a team that had previously met, and flourished, in every previous challenge.
2. Seriously. Think about it. Last time the Warriors played the Spurs (at Golden State), it wasn’t even a game. Last time the Warriors played LeBron James and the Cavaliers (at Cleveland), it wasn’t a game, either. Before that, I think the Pacers were supposed to give the Warriors some trouble. But the Warriors blew out each of those teams with the greatest of ease.
3. This time, though, things were different. The Spurs simply smothered the Warriors, especially Steph Curry, who bricked his way to a 4-of-18 shooting night (including a miserable 1-of-12 on 3-pointers). That’s not intended to bash the reigning league MVP. Everyone is allowed to have a bad game. But the fact it came against the Spurs means a little more. They are the Warriors’ biggest, and perhaps only, threat.
4. The Warriors finished just 9-of-36 on threes overall, but that’s not really the story of this game. They are more than a 3-point shooting team. (Besides that, they still made one more three than the Spurs.) A bigger story was how Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs suffocated the Warriors near the basket, stepping in front of cutters and protecting the rim.
5. Opponents that believe the Warriors are merely a perimeter team usually pay the price. But the Spurs learned their lesson the first time. On Saturday, they defended the three as well as anyone has all year — but they didn’t become obsessed with it or allow it to be the only defensive focus.
6. Two things stood out to me about this one: First, the Spurs surrendered an 11-point lead in the second half, yet still won. That’s a rarity against the Warriors. Once they get you figured out and get into a rhythm, it’s usually really bad news. But is always the case, coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs stuck with the game plan.
7. Second, Curry walked off the floor with his head down, looking incredibly dejected. It’s just one night in the regular season — but Curry looked as if he had just lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
8. To me, both the above points are why the Spurs and Warriors look like champions. They rarely ever treat games like they’re just another night at the office. They bring it almost every game. You could tell the Spurs have seen rallies like this before — and weren’t rattled. You could tell Curry and the Warriors didn’t like this feeling — and can’t wait to fix it in their next game.
9. Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge was brilliant with 26 points and 13 rebounds. He was terrible in the first meeting, and the Spurs got throttled. So it may be safe to say Aldridge is the X-factor here. Leonard was even better (18 points, 14 boards), as his defense alone can change the way the Warriors like to do things.
10. This was the Warriors’ worst offensive output of the season. Before that, it was their 89-point yawner on Christmas Day vs. the Cavs. But the Warriors won that one, so it didn’t really matter.
11. It should also be noted the Warriors were missing Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, two big pieces. Still, the Warriors have won plenty while missing key parts. The biggest takeaway from this game was how the Spurs were able to keep the Warriors from running their stuff.
12. The road to the West finals won’t be easy, even for teams as powerful as these. But I suspect they’ll get there, and oh what a series it will be. The Warriors (62-7) are now three games ahead of the Spurs (52-10) for first in the West. Neither has lost a home game. But my guess is, if they do indeed meet in the playoffs, that will all change.