Can the San Antonio Spurs handle the Golden State Warriors in what should be an epic Western Conference Finals?
That is the question people are beginning to ask as finally one of the NBA playoff matchups fans have long clamored for will take place. How the Spurs positioned themselves for this showdown was unexpected. Everyone saw the Warriors in this spot. But the Spurs had to hurdle a couple of obstacles.
First, the San Antonio Spurs had to endure the playoff-ending injury (courtesy of NBA.com), a ruptured quadriceps muscle to point guard Tony Parker. Not having their primary pace-setter should have been enough to doom the Spurs. Given how Parker was playing throughout the postseason, the Spurs seemingly could ill-afford to lose him.
Instead of sulking, the Spurs rallied. Sans the first game of their second-round series with the Houston Rockets, along with a misstep in Game 4, the Spurs did not show any loss of steps.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series presented a different set of adversity for the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs’ lost superstar Kawhi Leonard to a sprained ankle (courtesy of Yahoo Sports) late, but held on to fend off the Rockets in overtime.
BREAKING: Spurs announce Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 6 vs. Rockets pic.twitter.com/cnDlkY5IqB
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 11, 2017
Leonard wound up out for Game 6, leaving the Spurs were prohibitive underdogs against the Rockets.
The absences of Leonard and Parker did not discourage the Spurs. The rest of the team grouped together and put on an impressive defensive display, which led to a 114-75 thumping of the Rockets. The victory sets up a showdown of the two best teams in the Western Conference. So do the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to stop the Golden State Warriors?
While everyone is debating the possibility that the Warriors could meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in a third consecutive NBA Finals, the Spurs could crash the party.
Gregg Popovich is far and away the Association’s best coach. He is adept at creating good matchups that keeps his teams in contention year in and year out. There is little doubt that Popovich will be able to put together a game plan for the Warriors.
"Everybody contributed. It was a real team effort."
– Coach Pop on last night's close-out win pic.twitter.com/WMQ6XDn5sH
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 12, 2017
What makes the series between the Spurs and Warriors tantalizing is the idea that it is the league’s most underrated talent versus a team loaded with star power. The Warriors boast a roster with six current or former NBA all-star. None of that will matter with the unheralded players on the Spurs.
When the conversation is had about the top NBA’s top five players is had, how often is Kawhi Leonard mentioned. There is LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Only occasionally is Leonard’s name discussed when bringing up the top five players. But because the Spurs are not about making the headlines, he quickly gets forgotten about. Even during the rumblings regarding who should win the MVP award, Leonard was somewhat of an afterthought.
With the latest playoff run by the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard should be cemented as a top-three NBA player. The fact that the Spurs clinched the series against the Rockets without Leonard deserves attention.
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2017
What the Warriors will have to contend with is LaMarcus Aldridge playing up to his capabilities. In Game 6, Aldridge was playing like a man amongst boys versus the Rockets. Much of that had to do with him knowing that he was guaranteed to be the Spurs’ first option (courtesy of ESPN) on offense.
“I just touched it a little bit more tonight. So I had a chance to figure it out. I was trying to be more dominant down there. So I was willing to take some contested shots tonight and got into my rhythm early.”
If he plays like that in the next round, the Spurs could crash the championship party.
The Spurs strengths are Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard, and the Spurs’ style of play. Defense wins championships. The Spurs have arguably the best team defense. They can shut down an opposing team with the way that they rotate and help out.
Unlike with the Warriors, where either of their stars can take a game over on a moment’s notice, you do not know who will hurt you with the Spurs. Asides from what Leonard always provides, one night the Spurs might get a resurgence of Pau Gasol. Another night it could be Danny Green getting hot from the field. How many games the Spurs can take from the Warriors will come down to LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge is an NBA all-star. If he can give the San Antonio Spurs 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, the series against the Golden State Warriors will be a lot closer than most people expect.
No one gave the San Antonio Spurs much of a chance in Game 6 versus the Houston Rockets. The Spurs have a strong chance versus the Warriors.
Will the San Antonio Spurs crash the party?
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]