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.
SAN ANTONIO -- If Warriors-Spurs is considered a big series in these parts, you wouldn’t know it by the Express-News, the town’s surviving daily paper.
The front page of Sunday’s edition, which like most newspapers has its share of light and airy fluff, contained no mention whatsoever of the Western Conference semifinal that begins Monday in The Other AT&T. Not as much as a hashtag.
Oh, there was plenty in the sports section, you may be sure. San Antonio, like Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Portland, is a one-horse town when it comes to pro sports, and the Spurs haven’t had a losing year since 1997. The Spurs are therefore a big deal.
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Thus, the idea that the local coaster could live contently with merely the usual sports section sturm und drang may tell you a bit about how San Antonio views the next four to seven events.
It doesn’t tell you what the Spurs themselves think about it, because (a) the Spurs don’t overlook teams and (b) they don’t say much either way.
Point B doesn’t mean much. Point A does, because the best teams don’t look past opponents they regard as beneath them. In fact they don’t really regard opponents as beneath them. They may beat them flat to show their relative stages of development, but they don’t skip the preparation part. That’s how the Spurs became one of the best teams of the last 15 years. They don’t take mental days off.
Thus, the Warriors come into this series being taken seriously by a team that has largely owned them for those 15 years. San Antonio under Gregg Popovich can be beaten when injured, but they are not beaten when improperly prepared, because they don’t get improperly prepared. Overconfidence may be someone else’s struggle, but the Warriors come here knowing they will get San Antonio’s best brainwork.
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Physically . . . well, that remains to be seen. The Warriors are younger, and sometimes that can negate guile and experience. It will have to, because the Spurs as a matchup are difficult for the Warriors. When healthy, that is. When Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are right, and their depth players aren’t stretched beyond their logical limits as a result, the Spurs come as close as any team comes for seamlessness.
Denver, on the other hand, had seams, and lots of them – enough that losing Danilo Gallinari was a crippling blow rather than an ancillary event. The Warriors get full marks for their skillful exploitation of Denver’s shooting deficiencies, and for making themselves as deep as the Nuggets.
But now, figuring out what weaknesses the Spurs have other than age is Golden State’s prime responsibility, and it may take a few games for the Warriors to deduce them.
Or maybe they get lucky and the Spurs figure the Warriors really are beneath them. That’s not the way to bet, to be sure, and it is almost surely unlikely as a strategic mainstay. The Warriors will have to beat San Antonio straight up, which is at least noble in its own way. One way or another, Golden State will know where it stands – in a place other than the editorial board meetings of the San Antonio Express News.