Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors may not have an easy path to the NBA championship. That is if the San Antonio Spurs have anything to say about the Warriors’ dream outcome.
The Spurs’ 87-79 win (courtesy of ESPN) in Saturday night’s ABC NBA showcase game made a powerful statement to not only the Golden State Warriors, but the league in its entirety. The declaration – all championship roads must travel through the southwest in order to reach glory. And it does not matter if the opposition is the Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, or the Cleveland Cavaliers. In holding the Warriors to a season-low of 79 points, the San Antonio Spurs will not be intimidated.
Stephen Curry took the responsibility for the loss. He admitted that the Spurs “made some adjustments from the first game.”
Despite the loss, the Golden State Warriors are still in position to challenge the all-time NBA record for most wins with 73 victories. They have to finish their remaining 13 games by going 11-2.
Breaking the wins record will not be an easy proposition.
It looks like the Warriors, who face San Antonio two more times, also have to play the Clippers and the Boston Celtics. The latter is a dangerous game for the Warriors because it will be the third game in four nights.
Also, teams with good guard play give the Warriors trouble. Boston has been led all season by the trifecta of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart. When the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both have to defend, they tire out ever so slightly. With the playoffs on the horizon, the last thing the Warriors want to be is playing tired.
Of the seven Golden State Warriors defeats, the loss to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers supplied the blueprint to how to handle them. Teams with athletic scoring guards, as the Lakers have, will test the Warriors. The Dubs play a fast pace that, when defended, makes them turnover prone. The Lakers forced 20 Golden State miscues. This included 12 steals. How to beat the Warriors was exposed in the 112-95 loss, but a team has to be really good.
The San Antonio Spurs are better than really good. And they are gaining some ground in the NBA standings.
After beating the Warriors on Saturday night, the Spurs crept back up to three games behind the Western Conference leaders. It is not inconceivable that the Spurs could catch the Warriors. Even if San Antonio remains second in the standings, what was confirmed was something that many NBA observers already knew – the Spurs will provide the stiffest competition to the Golden State Warriors. Actually, no one would be surprised if they eliminated the defending champions.
It would make for a great story, albeit at the expense of an even better story with the Warriors attempting to break the record of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
Can the San Antonio Spurs derail the Golden State Warriors?
The Spurs are the team built to stop the Warriors, though they are built differently than the teams that have given the “Dubs” problems. San Antonio is a combination of athletic, polished and savvy.
When healthy, the aging Tony Parker can easily be impossible to defend. Parker is not the athlete he once was, but that is where being savvy comes in handy. Parker knows where to attack a defense, when to go to the basket, and when to find a teammate.
Parker and the ageless Tim Duncan add the gusto, while Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge bring the athletic prowess. Much of the Spurs roster is full of experience. They see themselves as equivalent to the Golden State Warriors.
When the dust settles and the NBA Finals are over, the Golden State Warriors may be crowned the champions, but they must survive the San Antonio Spurs first.
[Featured Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images]