Golden State have pushed San Antonio to the brink of elimination in this first-round series with three double-digit wins, the most recent a 110-97 road victory Thursday night. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson continued to be the focal points offensively for the Warriors, scoring 26 and 19 points, respectively, while Shaun Livingston added 16 off the bench as Golden State’s reserves totaled 40 for the game.
While the Warriors were not as prolific from 3-point range as they were in protecting their home court, they still made ten shots from beyond the arc while holding the Spurs to 21.2 percent shooting from deep. The reigning NBA champions have won 19 of their last 20 playoff games dating back to the start of the 2017 postseason.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and ten rebounds while Tony Parker added 16 points off the bench for the Spurs, who will be without coach Gregg Popovich for the second straight game following the death of his wife Erin on Wednesday. Assistant Ettore Messina will again take charge of the team for this contest. The 58-year-old Italian has been with the Spurs since 2014 and won four EuroLeague titles.
While the Spurs played inspired basketball without Popovich on Thursday night, their inability to find a consistent second scorer behind Aldridge has hindered their chances for victory throughout this series.
San Antonio have lost seven straight playoff games, all to Golden State as their 2017 postseason ended with a four-game sweep in the Western Conference finals. The Spurs have not been swept in the first round of the playoffs since Phoenix rolled over them in three games in 1992.
Three keys to the game
40/10/.500 splits doing the trick for the Warriors - The common thread for the Golden State Warriors through their first three wins has been getting buckets. The Warriors have gotten at least 40 field goals and ten 3-pointers while shooting at least 50 percent overall in each game. By comparison, the Spurs have failed to record more than 37 baskets, nine 3-pointers or shoot better than 42.5 percent in any contest.
More on Messina - Prior to joining the Spurs coaching staff in 2014, Messina was one of Europe's most successful club coaches and also had served as a consultant to the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2011/12 season. Messina won his EuroLeague in titles with Italy's Virtus Bologna in 1998 and 2001 and CSKA Moscow in 2006 and 2008.
Besides the four titles, he reached the EuroLeague final on five other occasions with those two clubs and Treviso in Italy. Messina also had a stint with Spain's Real Madrid that lasted less than two seasons as he resigned from the club during the 2010/11 season. After the postseason, he will interview for the vacant Charlotte Hornets coaching position.
Getting Iggy with it - Warriors guard Andre Iguodala missed six of his team's final seven games with a knee injury, but the veteran continues to be one of their most valuable playoff pieces. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP has averaged 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in this series and has made 50.0 percent of his shots and also provides another versatile body on the defensive end.
Matchup to watch
SG Klay Thompson vs SG Dejounte Murray - Thompson has averaged 18.0 points in the second half of this series. By comparison, only Aldridge is scoring over 18.0 points per game for the Spurs, which is yet another reason Golden State are on the verge of sweeping this series.
The worst part for San Antonio is Thompson had his "worst" game of this series Thursday night and still hit half of his 16 attempts. He also went "only" three for six from 3-point range, which dropped his percentage from beyond the arc for the three games to 65.0 percent (13 for 20).
This is obviously more than just Murray, though, for the Spurs. Whether it be Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson or even Bryn Forbes, San Antonio cannot lose contact with Thompson defensively if they cannot find a second scorer behind Aldridge.
Otherwise, this season is over.
Golden State Warriors projected starting lineup
PG - Andre Iguodala | SG - Klay Thompson | C - JaVale McGee | SF - Kevin Durant | PF - Draymond Green
San Antonio Spurs projected starting lineup
PG - Dejounte Murray | SG - Patty Mills | C - LaMarcus Aldridge | SF - Danny Green | PF - Rudy Gay
Durant continues to amass solid numbers that make him a near-must play for DFS. He has averaged 27.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while shooting 52.8 percent. In his last seven postseason games against the Spurs, Durant has totaled 27.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while shooting 56.9 percent overall.
If you discount his 3-point shooting (14 for 41), Durant is shooting a scorching 69.3 percent from inside the arc and has missed only five of his 53 free throws in that span.
Iguodala could be a sneaky utility fit for DFS since he is running the offense and has averaged 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the last two games while making nine of 16 shots.
Thompson's rampage in this series has given him an average of 17.3 points in the last seven postseason games between the teams while hitting 51.3 percent (20 for 39) from 3-point range and 48.0 percent overall.
Aldridge is doing his best one-man band impersonation for the Spurs, recording double-doubles in the last two games and averaging 22.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in this series while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 22 of 23 from the foul line.
If you need a second Spurs player for whatever reason, the choices are between Mills and Gay, and the latter's all-around numbers beyond points per game make him the play. Gay has also averaged 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals in this series, which more than offsets his three-for-12 shooting from 3-point range compared to Mills' six for 18.
The Warriors are 6.5-point favorites, with the line increasing one-half point in their direction since it's open. Golden State have covered in five of their last six at San Antonio and in eight of the last ten matchups overall between the teams.
Golden State are 26-7 against the spread in their last 33 first-round playoff games and 21-10 in their last 31 versus Southwest Division teams. In the shorter term, the Warriors have covered in four of their last five overall and four of their last five against conference rivals.
While the Spurs are 9-2 versus the number in their last 11 at home and 5-1 in their last six at home against teams with a winning road record, they have also failed to cover in their last five overall, their last five against Western Conference teams and their last six versus Pacific Division foes.
The over/under is 203.5 points, and the over is 8-3-1 in the last 12 games between the teams. Though the under is 5-2 in Golden State's last seven road games, the over is 3-0-1 in their last four against Southwest teams and 4-0-1 in their last five first-round playoff games.
The over has been trending for the Spurs, posting a 6-0-1 record in their last seven first-round playoff games, a 4-1-1 mark in their last six against Pacific Division teams and 23-8 in their last 31 following a double-digit loss at home.
It sounds tasteless and remorseless to say considering the passing of Popovich's wife, but a loss by the Spurs could start an offseason of considerable change for this organization. It may even start at the top with both Popovich and general manager R. C. Buford, who have been with the organization for over two decades.
Messina interviewing with the Hornets adds another layer of intrigue because fellow assistant Becky Hammon's time to be the NBA's first female head coach may soon come, and there could be five potential openings across the league before even speculating on Popovich's future.
Answers to Kawhi Leonard's status and his future must be found, while the careers of Hall of Famers Parker and Ginobili and possibly even Pau Gasol could be at an end. There are many moving parts to San Antonio, and a total rebuild in which even Aldridge, who has two years and $48 million on a three-year extension he signed before the season, is dealt, might be considered.
All the while, the Warriors march on. This is not a team lacking empathy, for many players and staff have interacted with Popovich as part of USA Basketball, and there has always been a measure of respect for the Spurs coach from his former assistant and current Golden State coach Steve Kerr down the line.
Thus, it is the business of basketball that will go on Sunday in San Antonio. Aside from Game 1, the Spurs have not played badly in this series; the Warriors have played better. San Antonio have made adjustments, Golden State have found answers in their depth and versatility while their top two scorers have compensated for the absence of their best scorer.
It will be too much Durant, too much Thompson and not enough points behind Aldridge as the Warriors complete a four-game sweep with a 113-101 victory.
The game will be televised nationally on ABC and nationally in Canada on TSNN. Tip-off time is 3:30 pm EDT.
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