Western Conference Final Preview: Spurs vs Warriors

After finally putting away the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs are set to face the Golden State Warriors. Over the past two seasons, the Spurs and Warriors have been the two best teams in the NBA. Last season, the entire NBA was looking forward to a matchup between the Spurs and Warriors, until the Thunder played spoiler and defeated the Spurs. This season, many believed that the Rockets were going to be able to upend the Spurs, especially after Game 1’s demolishing of the Spurs. However, the Spurs and Popovich were able to turn around their fortunes and won 4 out of next 5 games in dominating fashion. While Spurs were pushed to 6 games, the Warriors swept their opponent for the second straight series without little resistance. Throughout the first eight games of the postseason, only once, Game 3 at Portland, has a game been decided by 10 points or less. Similar to the regular season, the Warriors have received contributions from all the players on their roster.

Why the Spurs can win?

Over the past 20 years the San Antonio Spurs have been the most consistent team in the NBA because of head coach Gregg Popovich and a superstar players such as Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. Although Duncan no longer remains on the roster, Leonard elevated himself from a role player to one of the best players in the entire NBA. During this season and especially during the postseason, Leonard demonstrated an ability to take over games not only defensively, but offensively. This postseason, Leonard leads the team in points, 27.8, assists, 4.7, rebounds, 7.7, and steals, 1.7, per game. Even though the Warriors are a great defensive team with phenomenal individual defensive players, they do not have a great matchup against Leonard. Green is likely too small and slow to defend Leonard while Durant does not possess the strength to stay in front of the stronger forward. Leonard will use his mid range ability along with his improved three point shooting to give the Warriors fits throughout the course of the series. While Leonard is a major reason why the Spurs have a chance to defeat the Dubs, the best aspect of their team and organization is Pop. Pop is the best active coach in the NBA and maybe the best coach in the history of the NBA. Pop’s ability to command respect from his players, elevate their games, put players in the best position to succeed, and dissect his opponents allows him to put the Spurs to be in the best position to win games. Even though the Spurs lost Tony Parker, they were able to replace the former All-Star point guard with Mills and Murray and the Spurs were still able to defeat the Rockets. Lastly, the Spurs have the opportunity to win because of star, LaMarcus Aldridge. Throughout the postseason, Aldridge has underperformed and has not looked worthy of the max contract that the Spurs bestowed upon him two years ago. However, during Game 6 in a close out game on the road, Aldridge scored 34 points and led the team without Leonard on the floor, which demonstrated that he possesses the ability to be major factor in the series.

Why the Warriors can win?

Over the past three seasons, the Warriors have won the most games in NBA history over a three year span. The Warriors’ combination of skill, determination, and willingness to win has put them in rarified air. Even though the Warriors have the two time reigning MVP, Steph Curry, the team is led by All-Pro starting forward Kevin Durant, who they acquired this offseason. The Warriors won the most games in NBA history in one season last season, but their loss in the Finals to the Cavaliers led them to signing Durant. Durant, an MVP himself, has averaged 23 points, 4 assists, and 8 rebounds per game throughout the postseason. When Curry and Thompson were failing against the Jazz in Game 3, Durant took over the game as a dominant scorer and led the team to the statement victory. This team is so dominant and menacing because they have 3 of the best shooters and scorers in the game and each of them can take over a game. Along with Thompson, Curry, and Durant, the Warriors possess starting power forward Draymond Green. Green may not be the most talented player, but he plays with more heart than any other player in the league, can pass like a point guard, and possesses the ability to defend any position. This aspect of Green helps the Warriors because it allows him to run the floor, shoot threes, and play small. Along with four dominating players, the Dubs have many talented role players such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee, David West, and Zaza Pachulia. Each of these players have their own skills that they can provide to the team and complement the stars of the team. In addition, most of these players have championship experience, which will help them against the veteran San Antonio Spurs.

Who Wins?

Even though the San Antonio Spurs were 2-1 against the Warriors this season, very few are selecting the Spurs in this series and the Vegas odds makers have the Spurs as +900. The Warriors are blessed to have four different Hall of Fame players in their starting rotation. Although Steve Kerr will not be on the sidelines for the game due to his neck and back issues, the Warriors are intelligent and possess the leadership to overcome this obstacle. If the Spurs are unable to find a legitimate number two scorer after Kawhi, assuming he is able to play with his ankle injury, this will be a very short series. Popovich was able to create a plan to stop James Harden, the catalyst of the Rockets, but it will be nearly impossible for him to stop Thompson, Curry, Durant, and Green. Look for the Warriors to spend much of their attention on Kawhi and counteracting the Spurs’ ability to control the boards. The Warriors possess too much talent and seem to be on a mission after last season’s loss in the finals. The Warriors have faced little resistance in the past two series and I expect it to continue as they will win in five games.