The visiting San Antonio Spurs didn’t just beat the Warriors in Oakland on NBA opening day, they did so by nearly 30 points. And they picked up the convincing win against Golden State despite entering a new season without Tim Duncan for the first time in almost two decades.
Despite dealing with Duncan’s retirement in the 2016 offseason and despite resting some of their top players for good chunks of the game, the Spurs trounced the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, 129-100, at the latter’s team’s home court of Oracle Arena in Oakland. And they did it through their time-tested recipe of well-executed fundamental basketball, overwhelming an uncharacteristically sloppy Warriors team that was debuting its hot new acquisition, Kevin Durant.
So much for the so-called “super team” of the NBA, right? Although schadenfreude was in the air for many fans who hate Golden State for putting together such a mighty lineup on paper, the reality remains that this is just the first game of the 2016-17 season. Spurs beat Warriors on NBA opening day, and do so by almost 30 points? There are 81 games to go, and it’s way too early to hit the panic button. According to USA TODAY, “real panic” would be what happens if and when the Warriors suddenly fall flat in June, much like they did when they blew a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 NBA Finals and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, Tuesday night’s loss represents a wake-up call for a team that may have gotten too complacent early on and didn’t recover. The Spurs led 31-20 after the first quarter and had outscored Golden State in all four quarters of the game.
“It’ll be nice to wake up in the morning, watch film, and figure out exactly what went wrong, where the breakdowns were,” said Curry, as quoted by USA TODAY. “It’s a nice little slap in the face. The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game. And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”
In their own postgame quotes, the Spurs felt overwhelmed by how well they played against a team that won an NBA-record 73 regular season games in 2015-16 and just added one of the most talented small forwards in the league in the offseason. According to ESPN, veteran guard Manu Ginobili “wasn’t expecting” a rout over such a powerful team. Head coach Gregg Popovich, however, was less concerned about the surprise of his Spurs beating the Warriors, and more concerned about finding a replacement for Tim Duncan as a team leader and “security blanket” in case things get hairy during a game.
“(Duncan) was like the center of the universe and everybody knew how to act around that. With that pivotal guy gone, we’ll have to wait and see who accepts that role.”
If it was any consolation for the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant did play very well in his debut game for the team, scoring 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting and pulling down 10 rebounds. Curry was sharp enough, adding 26 points and shooting 9-for-18 from the field and 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. Draymond Green also had a solid performance, with 18 points and 12 rebounds. But the missing pieces may have been the Warriors’ bench, which combined for only 16 points, as well as Klay Thompson, who had a tepid game with only 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting.
Meanwhile, the Spurs banked on the strong play of Kawhi Leonard (35 points, five rebounds, five steals) and LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points, 14 rebounds). Aging forward/center Pau Gasol (two points, four rebounds in 18 minutes) and point guard Tony Parker (nine points in 26 minutes) were mostly rested, with San Antonio running roughshod over Golden State for most of the game. Unheralded guard, Jonathon Simmons, exploded for a career-high 20 points, outscoring the Warriors’ bench by his lonesome, while fellow reserve guards Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili added 11 and 10 respectively.
Yes indeed, the Spurs beat the Warriors in a lopsided affair that hardly anyone was expecting. But with months and months of NBA action to go, there’s still way more than enough time for Golden State to play like a “super team.”
[Featured Image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]