The Golden State Warriors have advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Finals and their reward for defeating the Denver Nuggets is the San Antonio Spurs.
With San Antonio having a week off to prepare and rest for the upcoming round, they'll need a specific game plan and adjustments when they face the Warriors. Game 1 will be this Monday in San Antonio where the Warriors have lost 29-games in a row.
San Antonio will have to make adjustments against Golden State, who play a completely different style of basketball compared to the Spurs' first round foes in the Los Angeles Lakers. These are the 3 keys to the Spurs winning the second round and eliminating the Warriors.
Make the Warriors a 2-point team
With David Lee's injury and the Warriors moving Harrison Barnes as the starting power forward, Golden State's 3-point shooting has made them a dangerous playoff opponent. Barnes' play at the 4 position helps spread the floor for the team and forces opponents to make a decision to play up on him and contest the shot or play back because of his athleticism. He's also helped his teammates get good looks from beyond the arc too with these percentages so far this postseason.
Harrison Barnes 46%
Stephen Curry 42%
Klay Thompson 41%
Jarrett Jack 33%
These shooters are going to play a huge role for the Warriors if they choose to advance. San Antonio's defense and adjustments against their 3-point shooting will be key for the Spurs to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Switching The Defense
The San Antonio Spurs have been known to switch their players on defense in the past, especially with Spurs' legend Bruce Bowen when he was on the team. This series shouldn't be any different in that the Spurs should try to get a huge advantage by giving the Warriors an unexpected look from their defense. With the Warriors starting two point guards in Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack, don't be surprised to see Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put a taller and longer defender on Stephen Curry while moving Tony Parker to guarding Jarrett Jack.
With Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard (or both throughout the game) moving over to guard the sharpshooting Stephen Curry on the defensive end, this may force the Warriors to depend on their other players and also will have to likely create for themselves. This is likely to get Golden State in a rut during the game since they're used to the offense going through Curry and his shots opening up the paint for them.
With everyone keeping on their man and defending the pick and roll with longer athletic players, the Spurs will force the Warriors to rely mostly on mid range jumpers or contested layups. The switching on defense may also cause the Warriors to play a totally different scheme on the offensive end where a player who's not used to posting up will try it and will be forced to adjust to a new style of play during critical moments.
This is the one key the Spurs hold over the Warriors that Golden State can't match.
The Spurs used their veteran experience to close out the Lakers as fast as they could in the last round and also played a huge part in how they kept Los Angeles uneasy throughout the series with their balanced attack. The Spurs should have an easier time with their experience this round, especially with how the Warriors' inexperience showed against the Denver Nuggets.
In the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter during Game 6, the Warriors couldn't play defense or even inbound the ball for a few plays. These mental mistakes were done against an inexperienced and young Denver Nuggets team that couldn't take advantage, but the crafty veteran San Antonio Spurs won't be making the same mistakes. The Spurs' veteran leadership also will help them dictate how the game will go and how both teams will play.
The Spurs have the luxury of playing a fast high scoring game like the Warriors and a slower paced game centered around Tim Duncan. If the Spurs are up, they may want to run against the Warriors and keep building up the lead by continually scoring. If the Warriors are looking to have the upper hand in a fast paced game, San Antonio may want to slow it down by throwing the ball in the paint to Tim Duncan and getting their short big man rotation in foul trouble.
What do you think Spurs fans? Are there other keys for the series in the Spurs' favor against the Warriors?