The Warriors proved they are a work in progress as San Antonio Spurs outclassed them in a 129 – 100 triumph.
The 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors rolled into Oracle Arena with a certain thunder about them. After a sterling preseason performance that enticed viewers with promises of high-octane, circus-like offensive displays and general basketball dominance, the Warriors staggered out of the gates against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
The unyielding defense of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs was perhaps a less than ideal testing grounds for the Kevin Durant – Stephen Curry show.
The rangy, vigorous Spurs wing corps, led by Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, covered the Warrior offensive machinery with molasses. Curry occasionally sparked flint with a play of two in the first half, but by and large the Warriors played like a two-week old helium balloon: listless, half-hearted off-ball movement; little cohesion or chemistry in coach Steve Kerr’s lineups; and a general lack of spontaneity or imagination in an offense that has staked its claim on those two attributes for so long.
Some of that is early-season jitters, like two first quarter layups blown by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Some of that is random variation laying wreck on otherwise sure-shooters, like Thompson’s missed open looks along the perimeter and (in theory) Ian Clark’s thunked open corner threes.
Ultimately, though, the Warrior offense fell victim to self-inflicted wounds. Unforced, unnecessary live-ball turnovers (especially at the end of quarters) plagued the Warriors.
On the other side of the court, Popovich decided he would be the first coach to test the obvious hole left by Andrew Bogut: everything the Spurs did tested the responses of a Warrior defense rigged and ready to compensate for a lack of a strong interior presence. This is not a novel strategy, and it will not go away.
Every team will ride heat-seeking missiles into the paint, forcing rotations and scramble recoveries all game long. Kerr and co. simply have to clean up this phase of the defense.
Leonard led the charge into the paint, to the tune of 15 free throw attempts. When the Warriors weren’t fouling, they were collapsing off of the perimeter to spring free-flowing double teams. Being astute Spurs players coached by Popovich, many times these traps resulted in outlet passes to open midrange pop-shots by LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.
The maniac focus on probing the Warrior defense’s innards resulted in a 8 – 20 advantage in offensive rebounds (34 – 50 overall).