This may have been a great win for the Warriors players. It may have helped their psyche a bit, to see the chinks in the armor of this great Spurs team. And boy are there chinks. Chinks you could drive a tank through. Chinks so big that you wonder if the World Champs will ever get healthy and organized enough to become a factor come playoff time.
But let’s face it, it wasn’t a significant win in any other respect. On a tough road back to back, after leaving everything out on the court the previous night in a tough loss to the Clippers, the Spurs simply didn’t show up for this game.
Not the Real Spurs: I half expected Pop to rest his starters out of the gate, but he waited until the second half. Is that what he’s been doing in nationally televised games this year? I haven’t been paying attention. Maybe that $100,000 fine last season had an effect.
At any rate, not the real Spurs. TP and Duncan could barely move, and weren’t interested in trying. Danny Green — who along with Duncan has been carrying the Spurs this year — has a sprained ankle, which forced him off the court early in the first quarter to get re-taped. Splitter still hobbling. Belinelli and Mills trying to work themselves back. As is last year’s MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who is fighting through a bad ligament injury in his wrist which kept him out a month and has severely affected his shooting. Except against Harrison Barnes, of course.
Not the Real Popovich: It’s very easy to tell when Greg Popovich is serious about beating the Warriors, isn’t it? He tells you by how he matches up. In the playoffs it will be Leonard on Klay, Danny Green on Curry, and Tony Parker hidden on Harrison Barnes. Remember?
Didn’t see it.
And he will play The Popovich Defense, the single best defense ever devised for containing Stephen Curry. If you’re interested in knowing what it is, check out my recaps of Games Two and Three of the Warriors-Spurs playoff series of two years ago. My Game Three recap in particular contains the blueprint for how Pop will attack the Warriors, when he is serious about beating the Warriors.
He wasn’t serious last night. Pop is just too crafty to show his hand in the regular season to Steve Kerr. Particularly on a night when he doesn’t have his horses.
As the Cube Turns: It may have been difficult to gauge the relative strength of these two teams by last night’s game, but there were nonetheless some interesting developments to note. Steve Kerr made a very significant adjustment to his Lacob’s Cube. Did you notice?
For the first time all season, Kerr brought David Lee into the game early in the first and third quarters, to play with Stephen Curry. Up until last night, Kerr has waited until the start of the second quarter, when Curry left the court, to bring Lee in.
And for the first time all season, we got to see Curry and Lee play pick and roll with a spread floor. We even got to see, for the first time all season, David Lee get to play some center with Draymond Green as his wingman, in the lineup that devastated the league the last two seasons.
The pick and roll didn’t kick in, in earnest, until the third quarter. And wasn’t that when the Warriors blew the game wide open? Why yes, it was.
Was this a one-off? Did Kerr make this move because he didn’t like the way Draymond Green was matching up against the Spurs big front line? Or does this signal a permanent shift in the Warriors rotation? Stay tuned.
Boris Diaw: If Kevin Durant were healthy, I would expect the Warriors first round opponent to be the Spurs, not the Thunder. But since Durant’s foot is not healthy, and may never be healthy this season, I’m not so sure.
But if it so happens that the Warriors face off with the Spurs in the first round, you can expect to see a heavy dose of Boris Diaw. As was evident last night, he presents a nightmarish matchup problem for the Warriors. He overpowers Draymond down low, and pulls David Lee out to the three point line.
Great, great player, and smart, smart, smart.
A championship piece. Pop picked him up for peanuts.
Rebounding: Is it worth noting that in a game in which they didn’t show up, the Spurs outrebounded the Warriors?
Is it worth noting that the Warriors are 20th in the league in rebounding rate this season? Pulling down only 49.3% of available rebounds? (Last season they were 10th in the league, at 50.8%.)
Is it worth noting that with Warriors opponents shooting only 42.2%, their rebounding rate is even worse than it seems? Defensive rebounding opportunities have literally been raining down on the Warriors’ heads this season.
The Warriors have sacrificed rebounding for starting-unit Nellieball, we all know that. And it has worked like gangbusters. In the regular season. Can this style win in the playoffs, when the game slows down, and the opposing coaches start to game-plan? Can it win against the monsters of the West?
I believe it can. Have always maintained it can. And still maintain that it can, even if I quibble with Kerr about when and how it should be deployed.
But is it worth noting that in the past, all the major Warriors writers vociferously maintained that Nellieball can’t win in the playoffs? (Every single one of them. At the top of their voices. It was literally a point of religion.)
And is it worth noting that Joe Lacob always maintained the exact same thing? In fact, didn’t he call it “The Sins of the Past”?
Some very amusing things are going on in Warriors land right now. There is an ideological divide between management and the coaching staff. The Warriors writers have changed herds.
And the Sins of the Past are marching towards a championship.