The Golden State Warriors have exceeded our expectations this season, and have continued that trend into the postseason.
While that may be good enough for us, it isn’t for them. No longer the laughingstock of the NBA, the Warriors are playing with confidence and plying to win. Golden State keeps pushing it and it is wearing down a veteran San Antonio Spurs team, evening the series after four games.
The Spurs came into Oracle Arena with a plan to slow down Stephen Curry. It is usually Kawhi Leonard that guards him, but help is quick to pick up Curry if he penetrates or comes off a screen. By helping on the sharp-shooting Curry, San Antonio has forced other players like Harrison Barnes to beat them from the outside.
The Spurs held Curry to 16 points on 5-for-17 shooting in Game 3. Golden State shot very poorly for a change as they were just 39 percent from the field. San Antonio’s strong start to the game was what really separated them from the Warriors: the Spurs won the next three quarters by only one point. Tony Parker had another one of his workman-like playoff games, scoring 32 points.
Both teams seem to play with a lot of energy and urgency in the first half. But the Spurs’ older players have a tendency to get tired closer to the end of the game despite their monster comeback in Game 1. That gives Golden State the opportunity to creep back into it. It gets dangerous for the Spurs because Golden State loves to strive off second half momentum. Despite a few plays that gave the Warriors a chance in Game 3, San Antonio rolled to a comfortable ten-point victory.
The Spurs had another fast start in Game 4. Their physical defense limited the Warriors to just 19 first quarter points. They followed that effort up in the second quarter by only allowing 18 points. Tim Duncan’s post defense didn’t allow any easy buckets inside. In fact, his defense didn’t allow many inside buckets at all. The Warriors were not playing with the same type of flow they had in San Antonio.
In both Games 3 and 4, San Antonio did an excellent job of controlling the pace. They forced the Warriors to play more of a half court game. The fact of the matter is that Golden State can beat the Spurs in a fast-paced game. For that reason, the Spurs were using the shot clock and not giving Curry much space to work with.
Marc Jackson’s squad came out of halftime with more energy than the Spurs. Andrew Bogut was playing fantastic defense on Tim Duncan and actually blocked him a few times. Stephen Curry was not forcing many shots. He was making the right plays and relying on the open guys to finish. Harrison Barnes was that guy much of the time. He provided a huge spark for the Warriors with 26 points and ten rebounds.
Golden State had two big advantages over the Spurs in this game. One of those advantages was rebounding. Andrew Bogut’s 18 rebounds led the way for them and rebounding was a big reason they were even in the game at one point. The Warriors were faster to the ball, especially in the second half. Their energetic play wore down the Spurs as it got later in the game.
The other advantage was free-throw shooting. Golden State shot 80 percent from the stripe as opposed to San Antonio’s lousy 56 percent free-throw shooting. Free points at the line obviously make a big difference and the Warriors were able to capitalize on those opportunities. Harrison Barnes was a perfect seven-for-seven from the line.
San Antonio had a few chances to put the game away late in the fourth quarter but the Warriors’ defense stood tall and gave them nothing easy. Jarrett Jack was Mr. clutch in the fourth quarter. When Golden State was in need of a basket, he used a pick to free himself up for a shot. Jack’s offense was the reason that Golden State could put the game in their hands. His hot shooting forced overtime.
Although Jack missed the potential game-winner in regulation, Marc Jackson was happy with the position his team was in. “Nobody thought we would be here in the second quarter but here we are. Let’s pull away and make this game ours,” Coach Jackson told his team. The young Warriors obeyed his orders and dominated the fatigued Spurs in the five-minute overtime period.
Both Game 2 and Game 4 were tales of the Golden State Warriors bouncing back. The Warriors are a young team with a lot to learn. Right now, they are doing a fine job displaying their growth and maturity as a team.
Stay tuned for a preview of the next two games in the series.
Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11