After conquering the third-place Rockets in Part I of the toughest two-night stint this season, the Warriors on Wednesday night will take aim on Part II of the challenge.
Which likely will be even more difficult, as the first-place Warriors are going into the historically imposing AT&T Center in San Antonio to face the Spurs, who reside in second place in the Western Conference.
A win by the Warriors (60-14) would reduce to five the magic number for clinching the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs. A victory by the Spurs (57-16) would pull them within 1.5 games of the top-seeded Warriors.
The Warriors, buoyed by the best defense in the NBA this month, have won eight consecutive games. The win streak began immediately after their last trip to San Antonio, on March 11, when coach Steve Kerr rested Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson.
The Spurs have won five in a row and will be trying to complete a three-game season sweep of the Warriors, who have not been swept by any team since Kerr was hired in 2014.
Spurs by 4.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson & Co. vs. Kawhi Leonard: Arguably the league’s best two-way player, Leonard has intruded on what was a two-man MVP race. He has emerged as a team leader and the man who must be neutralized to beat Spurs. Thompson will among several Warriors -- Matt Barnes and Green also will get opportunities -- trying to keep Leonard in check.
Warriors: F/C James Michael McAdoo (L eyebrow laceration) is listed as probable. F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.
Spurs: G Dejounte Murray (L groin strain) is listed as out.
Warriors: 8-2. Spurs: 7-3.
The Spurs won both games earlier this season, one in Oakland and one in San Antonio. The Warriors won three of four last season but have lost nine of the last 13 meetings overall. They have lost 34 of the last 35 games in San Antonio.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE CHESS GAME: Though neither coach has announced intentions to rest anyone, both realize they could meet again in the postseason. Therefore, neither is likely to tip his full hand in terms of schemes and tactics. Yet it could be said the Warriors, without Durant, have an ace in the hole.
THE FOURS: San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Warriors’ Green have been battling for several years. Despite height and physique that pale in comparison to Aldridge, Green’s aggressive nature and knowledge of angles and tendencies have allowed him to contain the bigger man. On the other end, Green hopes his tender ankle won’t prevent him from outrunning the bigger power forward.
THE BENCHES: San Antonio’s bench is deep and frisky; its 10.2 net rating is tops in the NBA. The Warriors, however, have gotten strong play from their reserves and now own the No. 2 net rating (7.4). Both teams have impact players here. Patty Mills is as much of a factor for the Spurs as Iguodala is for the Warriors.