Unlikely events have been occurring for the Spurs and the Warriors and it's about time for things to come back to normal in the conference finals.
“The series isn’t a series until the home team loses.” – Some Old NBA Proverb.
With Golden State being 9-0, alongside Kawhi Leonard likely being out for the rest of the series, most fans have already accepted a 12-0 start for the Warriors. Yes, things look unlikely, but this series has been very unlikely as a whole so far. In game 1, Kawhi getting injured the way he did was highly unlikely and the chances of San Antonio blowing a 20 point lead became more likely than it should have as a result.
In game two, more improbable events happened for both teams. Starting with San Antonio, you have LaMarcus Aldridge getting a stat line of 8 points in 26 minutes, Jonathon Simmons being the leading scorer with 22 points and the Spurs as a whole playing poor defense and shooting 37% from the field. Golden State, on the other hand, sealed the fate of the game in the first half alone. They were absolutely ridiculous from all over the court getting 65% of their shots to fall, 58% of their three’s to drop, which collected 72 points relative to San Antonio’s 44 by halftime.
136 points on 56% field goal shooting with 18 three’s made was the end result in game 2.
That is the best game the Warriors have played all post-season. They haven’t scored more than 136 points, they haven’t shot better than 56% from the field, and they haven’t made 18 threes until that night. This game shouldn’t be the defining moment of the series whatsoever. If Aldridge would have scored in the high 20’s again, along with some other Spur’s in the double digits, and if some proper defensive adjustments were made, that game would have been a lot different.
Unfortunately (and luckily), basketball isn’t a game of hypothetical situations. If it was, the Lakers would have every superstar under the sun with every hypothetical free agency they partake in. If I’m Gregg Popovich, without a doubt I’m upset, but every adjustment that he can make is more than reasonable. LaMarcus Aldridge scoring? He’s done it before, and he'll do it again. He has to as the biggest free agent signing the Spurs have had so far. San Antonio playing defense and defending the three is also very doable along with other teammates getting involved with scoring. It’s all within a reasonable scope for the Spurs, especially on their home floor, but it isn’t easy against the four-headed monster in Golden State.
For the Spurs to stay afloat at home, the best offensive player on their home court cannot be the $150 man otherwise known as Jonathon Simmons. He cannot be the leading scorer when the likes of Gasol and Aldridge exist in the front court, who can now take advantage of the scoring situation if Zaza Pachulia is going to be out with a heel contusion on Saturday. This does not mean that Simmons should ease up on what he provides. Without him providing an aggressive energy to set the example, it’ll be a difficult hole to get out of if San Antonio doesn’t have a spark of emotion when a lead starts to look insurmountable. They need more of Patty Mills waving his towel, and they need the rest of the team to become emotionally together when the going gets tough.
So if the Spurs manage to get emotionally in check, and manage to make more baskets than they did in game 2, what needs to happen on defense? The battle they have to decide on is stopping Steph Curry. Steph is the engine to the Golden State Warriors, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough elite defenders on the Spurs to stop him when the ball is in his hands. San Antonio should attempt to tire Curry out by constantly pushing him through screens on offense and make him run around like the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off last year in the finals. Every little bump, twist, and extra step taken is an advantage that the Spurs need to utilize if they manage to get the ball moving like they did a few years ago. Maybe even a few switches with Aldridge posted on Curry can happen, and maybe LMA can get back into his groove again.
With the series heading back to Texas, a game 2 scenario won’t happen. The Spurs will not let the Warriors score 130+ points, Aldridge will not score less than 10 points, and the conference finals will become competitive again if the Spurs tighten their ship which will happen with Gregg Popovich leading the way. It isn’t the first time a team was down 2-0 to come back and win it, and no one should have a sliver of a doubt with the success the Spurs have maintained over the last 20 years. The series is just getting started.