Curry, Warriors change focus to Spurs
In three games against the Spurs this season, Stephen Curry averaged 26 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Programming note: "SportsNet Central -- Warriors Edition" debuts Monday at 6:00 PT on CSN Bay Area, taking you up to the opening tip of Game 1 at 6:30.
When it comes to history, the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs don’t have a lot in common – at least not when you’re talking NBA playoffs.
The Warriors are making just their second playoff appearance in 19 seasons. The Spurs, on the other hand, have gone to the postseason 16 consecutive times and 23 out of the past 24 years.
It’s a playoff newbie vs. a playoff mainstay, and for the second series in a row the Warriors will find themselves as the underdog.
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The Spurs, who came in as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, figured to be here, and here they are. San Antonio swept the Lakers in the first round, but sweep doesn’t really do the Spurs justice. They won every game by at least 12 points, and won Games 3 and 4 by 31 and 21 points, respectively.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich kept down the minutes’ of his three key veterans – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – setting them up as very well-rested for Game 1 on Monday night in San Antonio.
Maybe too rested. The Spurs haven’t played since last Sunday, April 28. That’s eight days if you’re counting. But there’s really no point in getting into the rest or rust discussion as it pertains to the Spurs because those players all take games off late in the season, and they know how to play after mini-hiatuses.
The Warriors closed out Denver on Thursday, so they will have had a nice four-day stretch off themselves. It seems like they needed it. Center Andrew Bogut, who was superb in Game 6 and solid throughout the series, took a painkiller shot before the game, and said he might not have been able to play without it. Stephen Curry has had two such injections.
The big matchup of the series will be Tony Parker vs. Curry, although there will certainly be plenty of stretches when they don’t guard each other. Warriors coach Mark Jackson has tried to protect Curry at the defensive end when it comes to some opposing point guards and Parker would seem to be that kind of opposing point guard.
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Parker is one of the most successful guards in the league at penetrating and scoring off of it. One of the areas of deficiency for the Warriors against Denver was their inability to keep Ty Lawson out of the lane. Lawson was a pain for the Warriors even with Bogut roaming the interior. It’s scary to imagine what the Warriors would have done without Bogut, the rim protector, with a slashing team like Denver.
Parker, on the other hand, will defend Curry more than Curry defends Parker. The reason is because Klay Thompson has a size issue over Parker, and Thompson has shown during the second half of the season and in the playoffs that he’s capable of making you pay for a questionable matchup.
Much of this series will depend on how well the Warriors can contain Parker’s penetration versus how well the Spurs can defend Curry’s ability to shoot the 3-pointer.
But Parker comes in with a seeming advantage. It’s hard to imagine the Warriors winning the series without Curry outplaying Parker … But Parker doesn’t necessarily have to outplay Curry for San Antonio to win. That’s the benefit of playing on a proven and veteran-laden team.
That, after all, is why the Spurs are heavily favored to win the series. Then again, the Nuggets were favored over the Warriors, not quite as heavily as San Antonio is, and the Warriors took care of them.
Sure, it feels like the Spurs should win this series. But after watching how impressive the Warriors were in taking out Denver, how can you not give them a chance?