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Rosen: Spurs drubbing of Warriors has long-term implications

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot

One game does not a season make, but the San Antonio Spurs 129-100 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors does have some long-term implications. That’s because San Antonio revealed and exploited several soft spots in Golden State’s game plan.

The Warriors’ most obvious shortcoming is their interior defense. The slow-footed Zaza Pachulia had no presence at either end, and Draymond Green is too small to contain accomplished bigs in the paint consistently. This glaring deficiency greatly contributed to the Spurs scoring 20 unopposed layups. The visiting Spurs would undoubtedly have had several more gimmes if not for the numerous wide-open jumpers that were available.

Another result of Golden State’s virtually non-existent defense in the paint was San Antonio’s lopsided rebounding advantage—55-35 overall, including a devastating 21-8 margin in offensive rebounds.

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Moreover, the Warriors’ defense was likewise wanting in several other critical areas—weakside coverage (especially on out- and swing-passes after LaMarcus Aldridge was double-teamed in the low post), dealing with the Spurs’ early-offense situations and, most damaging, playing individual defense.

Indeed, after Kawhi Leonard flat-out beat Kevin Durant several times early in the game, the Warriors responded by switching Klay Thompson and then Andre Iguodala onto Leonard. To no avail. As witnessed by his scoring 35 points on 10-21 shooting, Leonard was unstoppable.

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Where else did Golden State’s defense falter?

There was often insufficient help on high screens, with Draymond Green being particularly culpable here. Also, if Aldridge was frequently two-timed in the pivot, he was totally ignored when he moved to the perimeter—scoring seven of his 26 points on 3-5 shooting from out there.

The highly-touted Warriors offense was likewise unsatisfactory. While they did convert a total of 21 layups, they also missed eleven. Indeed, the majority of their point-making came on isolations by Durant, Thompson, and Stephen Curry, plus a pair of solo ventures by David West and Shaun Livingston. Many of these plus-possessions occurred when the Warriors took advantage of defensive switches.

Indeed, Durant was Golden State’s only dependable scorer—27 points on 11-18 shooting. While Curry was more aggressive with the ball—9-of -18 and 26 points—he was only 3-10 from downtown.

Also, Curry’s four assists were canceled out by his four turnovers. As is his wont, three of his TOs came when he passed the ball while he was on the move. Plus, Curry made three terrible passes on the run which were either fortunately deflected out of bounds or heroically rescued by a teammate.

Except for his occasional lapse in defense of high screens, Green had a profitable game—7-15 for 18 points, a team-leading six assists, as well as five steals and a block.

In addition, Golden State’s bench players made minimal contributions—outscored 54-16 by San Antonio’s subs. In fact, except for the expected excellent performance of Durant, the off-the-bench production of Jonathon Simmons surpassed the all-around contributions by any of the other Golden State starters.

In his 28 minutes of daylight, Simmons scored 20 points on 7-15 shooting including 3-5 from beyond the arc, plus three assists, and one ultra-dramatic come-from-behind-block on a putative breakaway layup by Curry.

Overall, the Spurs outplayed and outclassed the Warriors in virtually every aspect of the game. And they did this with Pau Gasol still trying to find his role at both ends of the court.

So, then, it’s hard to imagine that the Spurs can play this well for the duration, and equally hard to imagine that the Warriors can continue to play so poorly.

The marathon season has barely begun, yet it’s a mistake to both overrate the Warriors and underrate the Spurs. In truth, as the season progresses, there’s little doubt that these two teams will emerge as by far the best in the Western Conference.

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