Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs NBA Playoffs Series Preview: Lineups, preview & predictions
The Warriors and Spurs will both be without their respective superstars as they collide in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals.
After contesting last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs now meet in the first round of this year’s playoffs. The Warriors took the season series, 3-1, although they were shorthanded in the Spurs’ lone win back in March.
The Warriors comfortably secured the No. 2 seed with a 58-24 record. However, they went just 7-10 down the stretch as they were without superstar point guard Stephen Curry for 16 of those games due to ankle and knee injuries. He’s expected to miss the entire first round as he recovers from a sprained MCL he suffered against the Hawks on March 23. They will still have their three other All-Stars around, though, as Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson will be tasked with leading the team in the playoffs until Curry can return.
As for the Spurs, they went 47-35, which snapped their incredible 18-year run of consecutive 50-win seasons. They too are without MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who has missed virtually the entire season due to his mysterious quad problem. In his absence, LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) stepped up to deliver one of the best seasons of his entire career. Coach Gregg Popovich has done his usual job of maximizing a roster full of savvy veterans (Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili) and competent role players (Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay), and he’ll look to somehow get that rag-tag bunch to give the defending champs all they can handle.
Three keys to the series
Warriors’ switch – This is it for Golden State. They took it easy during the regular season, presumably to keep themselves fresh for when it really matters: the playoffs. The playoffs are now here, and they must show they’re actually capable of flipping that switch. Their offense will obviously not be the same without the otherworldly shooting of Curry to prop them up. But they should still have more to offer defensively, especially against a limited offensive team like the Spurs.
Star power – Given both teams’ offensive limitations without their respective MVP candidates, this series has a chance to become a grueling defensive battle if both teams play up to their potential on that end of the floor. If that is indeed the case, then the two biggest stars – Durant and Aldridge – will need to carry their respective teams offensively. Whoever gets the upper hand in that matchup could just lead his team through to the next round.
Gregg Popovich – Pop has a history of giving Steve Kerr and Golden State problems. He just knows which buttons to push and which moves to make. His current group of players is arguably his most limited in years, and the absence of Leonard will probably be felt even more in the playoffs. But Curry’s absence also leaves the Warriors somewhat vulnerable, and if there’s any coach in the league who can capitalize on any weakness from the champs, it’s Pop.
Matchups to watch
Kevin Durant vs Danny Green – Defending Durant will be the main concern for Popovich and the Spurs. KD is one of the toughest guys to cover in the entire league, and he can almost single-handedly win the Warriors the series if he gets it going. The responsibility to keep him quiet will probably fall on Danny Green in Leonard’s absence, but in reality, it must be closer to a full team effort to prevent Durant from completely dominating this series.
Quinn Cook vs Dejounte Murray – Another interesting matchup to watch will be the point guard battle between Cook and Murray. Cook has played well since Curry went down. However, the playoffs will be a different animal and whatever weaknesses he may have will be put under the microscope. Murray can play suffocating defense and has the potential to take Cook completely out of the game.
Durant and Aldridge are obviously the two main men on their respective teams, and they will be asked to take on a lot of offensive responsibility in this series. Don’t be surprised if both of them go off for multiple 30-point double-double performances over the course of the series.
Meanwhile, Draymond Green also has the potential to be a top fantasy performer. He will likely play a ton of minutes, and given his all-around ability, he could fill the stat sheet to an impressive degree on a couple of occasions.
Warriors projected starting lineup
PG – Quinn Cook | SG – Klay Thompson | SF – Kevin Durant | PF – Draymond Green | C – Zaza Pachulia
Spurs projected starting lineup
PG – Dejounte Murray | SG – Patty Mills | SF – Danny Green | PF – Kyle Anderson | C – LaMarcus Aldridge
Game 1 in Oakland: Saturday, April 14, 3 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 in Oakland: Monday, April 16, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3 in San Antonio: Thursday, April 19, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 4 in San Antonio: Sunday, April 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5 in Oakland: TBA (if necessary)
Game 6 in San Antonio: TBA (if necessary)
Game 7 in Oakland: TBA (if necessary)
The Spurs will not go down without a fight and will give it everything they have even without Leonard. But just like what happened in last year’s series, the Warriors should still be able to do enough to go through despite missing Curry. It will be a closer, more competitive series compared to last year’s sweep, but the Warriors advance in six.