On Saturday night, the San Antonio Spurs made a statement to the Golden State Warriors. In San Antonio’s victory, the Spurs went with a smaller lineup, but still found a way to slow down the tempo versus the Warriors. Throughout the game, it was apparent that Gregg Popovich and San Antonio added several new wrinkles to their gameplan in working to counteract Golden State’s surgical efficiency. Most notably, the Spurs took advantage of the limited interior prowess, forcing the ball inside to both LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw. From the beginning, it was clear that San Antonio was going to attack Golden State’s small starting lineup in the painted area.
Popovich chose to go with Boris Diaw instead of Tim Duncan in the starting lineup, and that change made all of the difference. Diaw finished 6-7 from the field, chipping in 14 points and 8 rebounds. The Warriors chose to counter Diaw with Harrison Barnes, and Barnes immediately fell into foul trouble. In the end, Barnes missed a chunk of time in the first half and never got into a rhythm offensively in the game. Force-feeding the low-post could come in handy in the postseason as well, as Diaw is one of the most efficient players in the game down low. His quickness and size make him difficult to guard for most NBA players, and Popovich will surely look to use that to his advantage in the playoffs.
Jesus Gomez from SB Nation weighed in on Popovich’s gameplan, describing his ability to adapt and make adjustments from the previous game.
“[Popovich] sat Duncan and played lineups with just one traditional big man most of the time. He also gave Curry different looks and switched on-ball and even away-from-the-ball screens to prevent the back door cuts that killed them at Oracle. As a result, the defense looked much better this time around and the Spurs had a chance to win the game, unlike on the first matchup.”
With Diaw’s addition to the starting lineup, Duncan came off the bench for only eight minutes. This type of sacrifice has been a staple of the Spurs’ organization for the past two decades, and Duncan has certainly led their unwavering selfless culture.
LaMarcus Aldridge also had a notable influence on the game for San Antonio, leading the Spurs in scoring with 26 points. Aldridge, like Diaw, was dominant on the interior all night. Aldridge’s ability to gain low-post position versus Draymond Green was easily observable, and he had numerous opportunities around the rim to finish easy layups or turnaround hooks. For the Spurs, Aldridge’s production on Saturday has to be seen as a vital development. In the last game against the Warriors, Aldridge struggled to stay with Green on the perimeter and did not look comfortable offensively. However, if he can replicate this performance going forward, he can be used as a capable counter to Green and the Warriors as a whole.
On the other end, San Antonio gave one of their best defensive efforts of the season. With the Spurs’ focus on “bully ball” down low, Golden State was unable to get out in transition and find their long-range shooters open from behind the arc. This led to an increased volume of halfcourt possessions, where Danny Green and San Antonio’s defense as a whole gave Stephen Curry fits all night. San Antonio chose to switch most of the screens set for Curry, who was unable to catch fire and seemed frustrated the entire night.
Of course, Kawhi Leonard stuffed the stat sheet as he always does, tallying 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists. Leonard and Aldridge worked well in tandem, a trend that has become more apparent as the two have become more comfortable with each other this season.
Now, with Popovich’s adjustments well-documented, it’s back to Steve Kerr and the Warriors for a counter of their own.
[Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images]