The defending-champion Golden State Warriors emphatically defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 113-92, in Game1 of their first-round series in Oakland.
The Spurs, who haven’t won a road game since February 25, desperately need at least one road win for a chance to succeed in this series. They were unable to do that Saturday afternoon for a variety of reasons. The silver and black must shake this loss off and adjust the following issues to give themselves a shot at a first-round series win.
Finish at the Rim
Right from the start, the Spurs missed a couple of close-range shots, a trend that continued throughout the game. They must finish when they go up for uncontested layups and tip-ins — something they were unable to do Saturday. The Spurs had 22 points in the paint by the end of the game. While 22 points isn’t terrible, it isn’t enough to get past a team like the Golden State Warriors.
San Antonio’s lack of effectiveness finishing at the rim was only worsened by their subpar offensive rebounding. This issue, carried over from the regular season, negatively impacted the Spurs as not a single starter came down with an offensive board in Game 1. When playing fast-paced teams that run the whole 48-minutes, it’s easy to get pulled into that style of play. However, that fast-paced style isn’t the style the Spurs thrive in.
With the fortune of great and unlikely rebounders, namely Dejounte Murray, the Spurs need to box out on the offensive side at the end of each possession. The problem comes with the understandable concern that the Warriors will get the board and bolt to the other end for a quick shot. Regardless, with Golden State’s peak shooting effectiveness, the chances of them getting a good shot off on their end will come whether or not the Spurs put in that extra effort for second-chance points.
Take Advantage of the Full Shot Clock
Both of the above points tie into this very important adjustment the Spurs must make in Game 2 and on; taking advantage of the full shot clock. Here’s another area the Spurs struggled with throughout the regular season, and one that is becoming a lost art among today’s NBA teams. It’s rare to see teams making the most of each possession time wise.
From the beginning, the Spurs got pulled into the quick catch-and-shoot game Golden State loves and plays so well. On the few second-chance opportunities the Spurs’ reserves fought so hard for, they rarely ever shot the ball back out to reset and run a play. Instead, after getting the offensive board, the Spurs tried for a heavily-defended quick shot. Failed attempt after failed attempt, the Spurs tried for the tough shot instead of resetting and giving themselves the time to execute a play.
Perhaps the lack of experience in Dejounte Murray has something to do with this recurring mistake. Not using the full clock was also an issue whenever the Spurs got the ball off a turnover. Without hesitation, and no matter how many defenders beat them to their side of the court, they tried for a fast break over and over again. The Spurs slow, thoughtful, and strategic style gives them an upper hand when they use it wisely. In order to get a win in Oakland, the Spurs need to hone in on that style and own it.
Support LaMarcus Aldridge
The last big adjustment the Spurs need to make after game one is supporting their go-to guy, LaMarcus Aldridge. The Golden State Warriors are a champion-caliber team. Heading into this series, they prepared to focus most of their defensive efforts on Aldridge. Considering Aldridge has been the Spurs’ rock throughout this season, the Warriors had one consistent target to focus on going into Game 1.
With that said, the supporting players in silver and black must make themselves available when Aldridge has the ball. Every possession he gets, the Warriors will double-team Aldridge. This gives the other Spurs a huge opportunity to take the uncontested jump shot. However, when Aldridge has the ball, occasionally his teammates stand around waiting for him to take a shot instead of getting in position for an open jumper.
This problem area has also followed the Spurs from the regular season. With Aldridge playing so well, his teammates have become complacent and accepting of the fact that LaMarcus will usually finish the play with a couple of points. That mentality must change going forward.
The playoffs are a great opportunity for players to make themselves known. Game 1 provided that opportunity to rookie Derrick White, who shot 50% in 13 minutes during his first playoff performance. Bryn Forbes also provided 14 points in 25 minutes. These performances from first and second-year players are encouraging and something to watch for as the Spurs continue their playoff run.
San Antonio will face Golden State for Game 2 in Oakland on Monday at 9:30 PM.