The playoffs are underway, and it should surprise nobody to see that the Warriors have kicked things up a gear. After blowing out the Spurs 113-92 in Game 1, they took care of business with similar ease on Monday, winning 116-101.
Stephen Curry may still be absent, but the other members of the big four are more than pulling their weight. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been excellent, and though Draymond Green struggled in Game 2, he was very good in the first matchup.
For the Spurs, too much has been left to too few (LeMarcus Aldridge), and their defense has been unable to contain the firepower of Golden State. They return to San Antonio on Thursday, but will need a major turnaround in form to upset the Warriors.
Three keys to the game
Thompson’s shooting - Without the more glamorous member of the Splash Brothers alongside him, Thompson has carried more responsibility in the first two games and has handled it with aplomb. In the first, he went 11-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from deep to score 27 points. He had a slow start in the second, but recovered to end up 12-for-20 from the field, 5-for-8 from long range, and scored 31 points.
How important is the home floor advantage? - The playoffs are a different beast, but during the regular season the Spurs were significantly better in San Antonio than they were on the road. Away from home they were a woeful 14-27, a win rate which would give them a total of 28 wins over the course of the season. At home, however, they were 33-8, better than all sides excluding Toronto and Houston.
The third quarter - Typically, this is when the Warriors put their foot to the floor and blow away their opponents, and this series has so far been no different. In Game 1 they were leading comfortably at half-time anyway, but assured themselves of victory with a 29-22 third quarter. In the second matchup, they trailed by six at the main break before going 33-22 in the third to give themselves a seven-point lead heading into the last.
Matchup to watch
Klay Thompson vs Patty Mills - As mentioned, Thompson has been a huge factor in the first two games of this series. In the two games combined he is 69.7% from the floor and is shooting 71.4% from long range, and Mills is powerless to stop it. When Thompson gets going he can hit shots from wherever he likes, and it has been Mills watching most of these going over his head.
At the other end of the floor, after a poor Game 1 and slow start to Game 2, the Spurs guard appeared to begin to find his groove. After going 4-for-15 in the first game and a half, he went 5-for-6 in the second half of Monday’s matchup for 13 points, and ended with 22 for the game. Thompson is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the game, but if Mills can find a way to contribute on the offensive end against him it will be a huge help to the Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup
PG - Patty Mills | SG - Dejounte Murray | SF - Danny Green | PF - Rudy Gay | C - LaMarcus Aldridge
Golden State Warriors predicted starting lineup
PG - Andre Iguodala | SG - Klay Thompson | SF - Kevin Durant | PF - Draymond Green | C - JaVale McGee
Durant has been pretty tough to stop the last couple of games. He’s averaging 28 points so far in the series on 52.8% shooting, though he has plenty of room for improvement in his long ball as he has connected on just 30.7% of his 13 3-point attempts. The Warriors star is also pulling in 7.5 rebounds per night through two games, and dishing out 6.5 assists.
The Warriors have been given just a 3.5-point handicap, presumably owing to the fact that the Spurs are so good at home. Golden State have put the pedal to the metal, though, and with 21 and 15-point victories in the first two games, expect them to cover this line.
This one will be a little closer than the first two, but the Warriors will still be far too good. Good coaching and solid defense can only take you so far, and the latter of these isn’t functioning particularly well so far this series for the Spurs.
Thompson, Durant and Green are far too much star power for the Spurs to handle, and Aldridge can’t beat them on his own. Thompson and Durant will again combine for 50-plus points, and will lead the Warriors to a 3-0 series lead with a 111-103 win.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 9:30pm ET.