The Golden State Warriors handily defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 113 to 92, in Game 1 of their seven game series. Many were wondering what adjustments the Warriors–who finished the season 7-10, with many ugly losses–would have to make going into their first playoff game, especially without their star Stephen Curry. But head coach Steve Kerr made several adjustments that proved effective against Gregg Popovich and a Spurs squad that’s also without their leader, Kawhi Leonard, for the remainder of the playoffs.
JaVale McGee made the difference
The first adjustment that Kerr made was to the starting lineup. He’d said previously that the starting center
would be decided on a game-to-game basis, based on matchups and previous game performance. And Kerr decided to go guns blazing by starting JaVale McGee, who played easily one of his most efficient and reliable games in a Warriors uniform. His final stat line was huge: 15 points on 5-7 shooting , 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks, one of them a high-flying, emphatic swat.
McGee’s defense on LaMarcus Aldridge was also surprisingly disciplined; the Spurs’ leading scorer was held to only 14 points on 5-12 shooting, and a large part of that low scoring output was due to McGee’s length bothering his trusty turnaround fadeaway in the post. McGee was running up and down the court and making the right plays, and he sparked the Warriors’ energy on both defense and offense. He only played 16 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter, but he made the most out of every second, as the Warriors took the lead early on and started running away with it.
Andre Iguodala at the point
Another interesting lineup change that Kerr decided to make was to start Andre Iguodala, the seasoned veteran and former Finals MVP, at the “point guard” position instead of Quinn Cook (point guard is in quotes because since the Warriors offense is so freeform, the ball isn’t primarily going to be in Iguodala’s hands whenever he’s in). Though Cook was the starter in Stephen Curry’s absence and was playing well, it just made sense for Kerr to start Iguodala, finally fully returned from a right knee injury, since he has much more playoff experience than Cook. Cook had a solid game off the bench, though, finishing with 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Iggy only had 3 points (a three pointer, of all shots!), but he grabbed 7 rebounds and gave out 4 assists. However, his immense contributions don’t really appear on the stat sheet; he understands how to run the Warriors offense by pushing the pace and keeping the ball moving. His defensive prowess is also key for the Warriors every game.
Monster offensive games from Thompson and Durant
Klay Thompson was ludicrously efficient. He had 27 points while shooting 11-13 from the field, 5-6 from three point range. When Thompson, one of the best shooters in the league, catches fire, it’s almost impossible to put him out, and the Warriors made sure to get him the ball in the second and third quarters.
Kevin Durant was dominant as well. He scored 24 points on 9-17 shooting, but he was doing everything else on the court, too; he grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 7 assists, and his length and speed were torching the Spurs the entire game.
Worth mentioning is Draymond Green, who almost had a triple double (12 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds) and was a centerpiece for the Warriors offense and defense. The three All-Stars took command in Game 1.
The entire team was locked in on defense
The Warriors looked hopped up on energy, and they were hungry on defense. They boxed out well, dominating the Spurs on the glass 51-30. They fought through screens and forced the likes of Patty Mills and Rudy Gay to take tough, contested jump shots; in the end, the Warriors held the Spurs to 40% shooting.
The Warriors had too much length for the Spurs, especially with their modified, unusually long starting lineup that differed from the small ball “Death Lineup” that the Warriors have made famous. The shortest player of the starters was Iguodala at the point at 6’6″, and with McGee and Kevin Durant in the paint with their enormous length and skyscraping wingspans, they bothered a great majority of the shots that the Spurs tried to take.
If you’ve been keeping up with the Warriors for the past two months, then you’d have noticed the immediate change in pace, energy, and motivation; it seems that the team’s metaphorical mental basketball switch has indeed been flipped. They seem to be amped up and locked in at just the right moment, and they’re not taking their feet off of the pedal as they aim to finish off a disgruntled Spurs team.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Golden State Warriors article is published, fill out our email notification form.