Fast Forward: Warriors out to start new chapter vs. Spurs

Fast Forward: Warriors out to start new chapter vs. Spurs
March 22, 2014, 1:30 pm
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The Warriors have lost 50 of the past 58 meetings with the Spurs, including the first two this year. (USATSI)

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Battle of benches. While the Warriors' reserves are much improved, the Spurs' backups are superb.

2. Bombs away. So good is the San Antonio interior defense that the Warriors will need some treys.

3. Pop's call. If Popovich sits his big three, that opens a door for the Warriors -- though ex-Warrior Marco Belinelli closed that door in the last meeting.

Programming note: Spurs-Warriors coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

OAKLAND -- If history is an accurate guide, the Warriors could get a break when they face the Spurs on Saturday night at Oracle Arena.

Yet there are no assurances such a break will swing the game toward the Warriors.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich will decide sometime in the hours before tipoff whether to play any or all of his certified All-Stars. You've heard of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginibili, yes?

[RELATED: Warriors prepare to face idol Spurs]

All three played significant minutes in Friday night's 99-79 win at Sacramento that extended San Antonio's win streak to 12 games. But Popovich generally does not utilize all three on consecutive nights. He sat them on his team's last trip to Oakland.

And the Spurs still found a way to beat the Warriors, who may have presumed victory in that Dec 19 game against the "lesser" San Antonio players.

That defeat, 104-102, only reinforced what the Warriors (44-26) should have known about the Spurs (52-16). They win not only with talent but also because of a Hall of Fame coach and a system understood and executed by the entire roster.

"Anytime you play the Spurs, it's going to be a tough game," forward Draymond Green said after shootaround Saturday morning.

"They just find the right guys that are committed and do whatever is asked," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "They have great examples in their leaders, who are willing to be coached. When you can coach your best players, it makes like so much easier."

Barring a last-minute change of plans, Jackson definitely will be without one of his starters. Forward Andre Iguodala has missed the last two games with knee tendinitis, and Jackson has projected his return for March 28.

[RELATED: Iguodala to miss time with knee tendinitis]

Everybody else, however, should be ready to face the team that has dominated the Warriors in recent years and ousted them from the playoffs last season. Backup center Jermaine O'Neal, who sat out past two games, rejoin his teammates.

He'll be needed. Everybody will be needed against the league's hottest team.

"They have consistency with their offense; every possession they seem to get a good shot," guard Klay Thompson said. "You’ve got to limit their paint touches. The way they play is methodical, a slower pace, but real efficient. And they're an underrated defensive team. You know when you play them, you really do have to play 48 minutes. Every possession counts when you play the Spurs."

That's true, no matter which Spurs take the court -- as the Warriors surely realize.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Thompson vs. Parker. Going back to the playoff series last spring, this is becoming a fascinating game within the game. It's the cat, Thompson, trying to contain the mouse, Parker. If Parker sits out, former Saint Mary's College star Patty Mills becomes the cat.

Thompson vs. Kawhi Leonard. That's right, it's a crossmatch, with Leonard shifting into the role of the cat, while Thompson becomes the mouse trying to shake free. Leonard is a terrific defender. If Stephen Curry heats up, Leonard could go after him.

Andrew Bogut vs. Tim Duncan. They don't always go straight up, but they're usually in the paint. Both are tremendous defensive presences. Bogut's job is to keep Duncan off the boards and limit his easy buckets.

INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, F Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) and C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery rehab) are out.

The Spurs list no significant injuries.

LAST 10: Warriors 8-2, Spurs 10-0.

SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors lost both previous meetings this season. Prior to earning a 2-2 split last season, the Warriors had been swept four consecutive seasons. The Warriors have lost 50 of the past 58 meetings overall.

 

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