I’m with Mark Jackson. Regardless of the result, I liked what I saw in this game. Really liked what I saw. I know Duncan was deathly ill, but the Spurs looked really old and slow. Tony Parker is at about 80% — he’s slower than normal, and his deep shot isn’t falling. Ginobili has been at about 70% all season, when he’s been playing at all — his shooting has all but deserted him (funny thing to say after he just daggered us), and his driving and finishing ability are hugely diminished.
Those 8-1 odds a bet on the Warriors is getting look a lot juicier now than they did before this game, don’t they? This game reminds me of the close loss the Warriors suffered in Game 1 against the Nuggets, when you sensed the Nuggets might have their hands full.
It’s obvious now that the Spurs have their hands full as well. Splitter’s still out, and might not even be effective when he returns. Duncan might not be at full strength for Game 2. Bogut is playing like a monster. Parker and Ginobili won’t get any healthier. Thompson looks far more comfortable against Leonard and Green than he did against Iggy. Barnes and Green are unconscious, and a nightmare matchup for Bonner and the Spurs in general. And Stephen Curry is the best player in the series, and completely unguardable.
For three and two-thirds quarters, the Warriors looked like the better team, on the Spurs home floor. The younger, fresher, more confident, better defensive and and better shooting team.
But of course, that won’t be the story line of this game. So let’s start with that part of the game that will generate all the talk:
The Fourth Quarter Meltdown: After the game, Ginobili was asked how the Spurs managed to come back to tie, when they were down 16 with only 4:30 left to play. He answered that he wasn’t sure, he’d have to go back and look at the tape. And that’s exactly how I felt after the game. Unlike after the Denver game, I had no idea how the Warriors fourth quarter meltdown happened. So I went back and checked the tape. Here’s my break down:
At 4:31, with the score 104-88, Tim Duncan leaves for the locker room to puke his guts out. The Spurs go with a lineup of Diaw C, Leonard PF, Ginobili, Neal, Parker. The Warriors answer with Green C, Barnes 4, Klay Thompson, Jack and Curry. So both teams are extraordinarily small.
- Draymond Green misses a tough up and under at the basket.
- Thompson fouls out forcing Parker baseline. Parker hits both FT. 104 – 90. (Jefferson in for Thompson.)
- Jack iso v Parker, misses mid-range jumper.
- 3:30 Spurs start running high picks for Parker, who beats Barnes for a layup. 104-92.
- TO: Curry penetrates and dishes, but is called for a pass and crash. I’m pretty sure this was a flop, and a terrible call. Curry was under control, and barely touched Neal.
- 3:06 Another pick, another Parker layup around Green. 104-94.
- TO: Jack throws away an attempt to hit Curry on a curl. Leonard converts layup. 104-96.
- Jack iso on Diaw, forces a floater and gets it blocked.
- Green steals, Jefferson fouled on fastbreak layup. Misses both FT.
- 1:41 Leonard hits a three. 104-99.
- High pick for Curry leaves him iso’d v Diaw, has his three blocked.
- 1:18 Parker layup. 104-101. Landry in for Jefferson.
- Landry post-up. Misses midrange jumper, and fouls on the rebound.
- 0:59 Diaw hits both FT. 104-103.
- Curry misses step back over Leonard. Warriors rebound.
- 0:29 Jack isos against Parker, hits midrange jumper. 106-103.
- Bazemore in for Landry.
- 0:22 Danny Green hits an open three. Tied at 106.
- On the final possession of the fourth quarter, Curry isos v Leonard at the top of the key. He beats him off the dribble, and drives the lane. Diaw leaves Green in the corner to block Curry’s path. Curry picks up his dribble, sees Bazemore wide open on the wing, but looks him off and gets trapped. He winds up hoisting a brick as time expires.
So what happened?
This Game v. Denver Game 6: The first thing to note is that this meltdown didn’t resemble the one against Denver at all. Against Denver, the Warriors got into a bit of a panic, and turned the ball over 10 times in the fourth quarter. By contrast, the Warriors only turned the ball over twice in the final 4:30 of this game, and one of those was the result of an undeserved whistle.
What happened in this game is that the Warriors just stopped hitting shots. And they were completely unable to defend the Spurs ultra-small unit.
No Bogut: I’m certain that many Warriors fans will be incensed at Mark Jackson for sitting Bogut after Duncan went out, and will see this collapse as a repudiation of small-ball. I think that’s incorrect.
First of all, since the Spurs played smallball throughout the end of the quarter, and in both overtimes, you can’t exactly say that smallball lost the game, can you?
Secondly, the smallball Spurs lineup put Bogut at a distinct disadvantage, as was strongly evidenced in the two overtimes. He was unable to guard Diaw out on the floor for one thing, leading to Diaw hitting an open three and a 15-footer. And he was unable to make Diaw pay on the offensive end. The Warriors tried posting him up once, but he was unable to establish deep position, and wound up passing the ball out.
But more importantly, Bogut got diced up by the Tony Parker pick and roll, particularly in the second overtime. He was unable to get to Parker’s ten-footers, and even though Parker was cold from 18 feet, he doesn’t miss from 10.
It’s quite possible that Jackson put his best defensive lineup for the situation on the floor.
Third: Hack-A-Bogut. As the end of the first half demonstrated, Popovich won’t let Bogut close games without forcing him to the line. And if Jackson had left Bogut out there, Hack-a-Bogut would have allowed Popovich to stop the clock and extend the game.
Stephen Curry’s 53 minutes: I’m certain as well that Jackson will be killed by Warriors fans for never getting Curry a rest. Barkley stated post-game that he thought Curry clearly tired down the stretch, pointing out that he went something like 0-8 on jumpers after the third quarter.
Guess what? I don’t blame Jackson for this either. Jackson smelled blood in the water in this game. No Splitter, Duncan sick, and Curry and the Warriors clicking on all cylinders. The Warriors had a fantastic opportunity to steal a game, and Jackson gambled that he could ride his superstar for four quarters. There was no way he could foresee that the game would go to double overtime.
And I don’t necessarily buy the theory that Curry started missing jumpers late in regulation as a result of tiring. The Spurs had a hand in it too, didn’t they? Pop started guarding him with Leonard, his toughest, longest defender. Diaw came in for Duncan, and was able to extend to the three point line.
And Curry wound up 6-14 from three, for 43%. It’s not the 50%+ of the Denver series, but seriously, can we expect better from a rested player? If he makes 3 or 4 in a row, can’t he also miss 3 or 4 in a row? Does it signify when he missed them?
And finally, I think Curry guided the squad beautifully in the fourth quarter. He was drawing doubles by then, and his drives to beat the hedges, and ability to find and hit open teammates was nothing short of spectacular.
I find nothing to fault Jackson for in this game. In fact, it was one of the best coached games I’ve ever seen. He rolled the dice, and took a very savvy gamble. Even good gambles can come up snake eyes.
So What Happened?: Paradoxically, when Duncan went out the Spurs’ defense improved. He was really a step slow on rotations in this game, allowing the Warriors to beat him several times with floaters. His shot-blocking was MIA.
But when he left the floor, the Spurs got smaller and quicker, and were able to switch all screens effectively. Diaw did a terrific job making things tough for both Curry and Jack in the pick and roll.
Secondly, the Warriors missed open shots and those two Jefferson free throws. Quite obviously, just one more point would have held the Spurs off.
But third, and most concerning going forward, Tony Parker simply took over the game, and the Warriors appeared powerless to stop it. The Warriors struggled badly trying to contain Parker’s pick and roll, particularly after Klay Thompson fouled out.
PLAYERS AND MATCHUPS:
Bogut: As poor as he looked late in the game trying to match up with the Spurs’ smalls, Bogut looked that great defending Tim Duncan in the first half and third quarter. Clogged the lane and rebounded as well as the last game. And looked even better on offense. Hit a couple of running floaters — first time all season? Distributed beautifully, including once in a two man game with Curry in the lane. And sprints out of the lane to set high picks.
Bogut doesn’t look at all like the player he was at any point in the regular season. We know that he’s giving it his all now, and that he was holding back a bit in the regular season — he said as much in interviews before the Denver series. And we know he’s getting help from the needle. But regardless of where it’s coming from, he’s a genuinely great player at the moment. If he can sustain it during the course of the series, the Spurs will have their hands full.
Curry: Barkley said post-game that Curry “has been the best player in the world in these playoffs.” I would have to agree.
When I saw how Pop was guarding him in the first half, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I told the Thaiblonde, even as he opened the game 1 for 5, just watch, he’s going to have a huge game. He simply had to, getting single covered as he was.
Then came his patented third quarter explosion. First he was singled by Parker. Then Danny Green took over. Finally, at 9:22 3rd Q, Pop capitulated and put Kawhi Leonard on him. But still the Spurs were hedging softly, and Curry killed them on penetration.
The first blitz didn’t come until 8:33 of the quarter, but Curry found Draymond for a three.
Thompson: Unlike Curry, just an everyday average all-star. Although he didn’t hit a three, he had a heck of floor game. Take a look at the box score, ending with that +14.
He’s got an incredibly tough assignment guarding Parker and will need to find a way to keep himself on the floor.
But the Spurs have their hands full guarding him as well. When you take away his jumper, he will punish you on the drive. And he proved to Pop that he can’t hide Parker on him.
I don’t hear many complaints about his finishing ability lately.
Barnes and Green: Yes, they’re being left wide open, but do these rookies ever miss? On a team with Curry, Jack and Thompson, they’re on a pretty spectacular shooting run of their own.
The Warriors have simplified Barnes’ offensive game in the playoffs. We’re not seeing any more of those mid-post isos that he’s not ready for. It’s catch and shoot threes, drives when he has a mismatch, and rim runs.
Both of their offensive games have been enormously aided by the switch to smallball. When the Warriors spread the floor, and Curry and Jack draw defenders, it is simply impossible to keep a man on them. Stretch-fours, yes indeed, what a concept.
Both had some struggles on defense in this game, trying to guard much smaller players on switches. But Green had a nice block of Parker, and forced a Ginobili miss to end the first overtime. And both were extremely solid in the painted area. This was one of Barnes’ better defensive performances of the season, particularly when matched on Leonard. He really stepped up his defensive intensity, and pulled down an impressive 12 boards.
Ezeli and Landry: Ezeli got the start at power forward, which was interesting. The defense that resulted was predictably great, but I was totally amazed that the Warriors offense could function at all with this lineup, let alone operate with the total efficiency they showed in this game.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
It was also interesting that Draymond Green was the first power forward off the bench. I absolutely love that move. Green and Barnes can both guard Bonner at the three point line, and give him problems on the offensive end. And they’re far more able to switch and cover the Spurs smalls.
I’m guessing Landry will be playing mostly smallball center, at least until Splitter and Duncan return to health.
THE OVER: Anyone follow me betting over 201? The total in regulation was 212.
Seemed like a gift to me. Both of these teams are going to be playing a lot of Nellieball, even when Splitter returns. Both are pushing the tempo. And I don’t think either of these two teams can guard each other.
If this line doesn’t move, neither will I.