Warriors relying heavily on their offense and 3-pointers while the Spurs lean on dependable lock-down defense
POSTED: Mar 25, 2016 6:50 AM ET
The Spurs and Warriors could become just the second and third team to eclipse 70 wins in a season.
In the NBA, a playoff series starts when a road team wins on the opponents court. If that logic is applied to the regular season, the Golden State Warriors-San Antonio Spurs series has yet to begin.
For the first time in NBA history, two teams have recorded 60 wins through the first 71 games of a season. The Warriors (64-7) and Spurs (60-11) have been wildly successful using contrasting styles. San Antonio boasts size, strength, discipline, coaching and reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. Conversely, the Warriors feature speed, focus, joy, selflessness and the reigning Kia MVP Stephen Curry.
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This is what we've been waiting for. The Golden State Warriors visit the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday in this highly anticipated contest.
With 11 games remaining in the season, many questions remain. Who has the advantage? Who needs home court more? Which team can impose its will throughout a seven-game series? Ultimately, who will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals?
For Turner Sports analyst Brent Barry, this has been an incredible season to watch both as a fan and former player. The son of Hall of Fame forward Rick Barry, Brent was essentially born into "Dub Nation." Brent was a 3-year old when his dad led the Warriors to a title during the 1974-75 season. As a player, he won two NBA titles (2005 and '07) with the Spurs. To say he watches both teams closely would be an understatement, and, like most NBA fans, he's fascinated with the results.
"San Antonio is having the best year ever with Tim [Duncan] and [Gregg] Popovich as the head of the team," Barry said. "With regards to the Warriors, I think the fascinating part is maybe how much better they are given what they did last year."
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Last season, the Warriors won 67 games en route to their first title in 40 seasons. Many questioned their success, attributing much of it to good health and getting hot at the right time. Golden State responded with a 24-0 start and rumblings of a 70-win season began. Not far behind was a retooled Spurs roster that quietly won 19 of its first 24 games. The biggest reason for both teams success has been their flawless home records. A combined 69-0 at home, its safe to say both teams prefer to rest in their own beds before a potential Game 7 matchup. However, one team's preference may be out of necessity.
"I still think the Warriors need it [home court]," Barry said. "I've listened to 100 NBA coaches that have talked about these instances where their monumental seasons have always come down to Game 7s. There's the classic cliche line that anything can happen in a Game 7. Well, if anything can happen, I'd rather it happen in my home where I know where the security buttons are."
|Cookin' At Home|
Both teams have been dominant no matter where the game has been played. However, the Warriors have become synonymous with offense and the Spurs defense. Most teams have an identity that favors one of the two, but for these teams in particular, they've become the poster child of their preferred style of play. The Warriors rely heavily on the 3-pointer. In fact, the backcourt duo of Curry and Klay Thompson have 580 3s made whereas the Spurs have a total of 507 as a team. Surprisingly, Golden State gets a ton of wide open shots.
"The Warriors are not a pick-and-roll team," Barry said. "They are an off-ball movement, back-screening, cutting-away-from-the-ball-action team. Their stars play selflessly without the basketball giving up their bodies. It's something with teams that's very hard to react when you're being drawn in by open players near the basket that end up costing you opportunities to play the right kind of defense against great shooting."
GameTime: Same Spurs
David Aldridge and Stu Jackson analyze how San Antonio continues to win by adapting to LaMarcus Aldridge's skill sets.
According to NBA.com/Stats, the Warriors are ranked 30th in pick-and-roll offense, something they use in a game 10.5 percent of the time. Furthermore, they're ranked 23rd in isolation plays (6.2). It should come as no surprise that they lead the league in off-screen plays, generating 11.6 percent of their offense with this style of play. This season, Golden State is the only team to register double-figure frequency of off-screens.
Defensively, the Spurs have been a juggernaut for some time. They've finished with a top-three defensive rating in each of the last four seasons. This season, they've held teams to 90 points or less 32 times, winning 31. Needless to say they've seen every offensive concept possible. Besides great principles, their experience and discipline is what keeps them afloat.
"There's not a lot of things this team hasn't seen," Barry said. "You add their experience with their knowledge along with the guys in their position who are defending or their younger guys in key positions. Other than Tony [Parker] at the point, Danny Green is still a long two-guard, a very good disciplined defensive prowess. Also, you're talking about the best defensive player possibly we've seen on the wing since Scottie Pippen in Kawhi Leonard."
Spurs Defensive Rankings
Def. Rating: 1
Along with being perfect at home, flawless on offense and defense respectively, both teams are undefeated following a loss this season. Historic alert! No team in NBA history has finished a season without consecutive losses. The numbers prove the Warriors and Spurs are having seasons for the ages. Unfortunately, only one can reach the NBA Finals. In a potential Western Conference finals matchup, who gets the edge?
"I still think the Warriors, because of how much exertion there is to shut down what they can do," Barry said. "Home court and it being the third round of the playoffs, with that much intensity on the defensive end. How much does that cost you with your legs? How much does that cost you with your shooting ability to score the ball? How much can you keep up the pace if the Warriors keep coming at you in waves? That's going to be the most interesting part if and when they play each other."
Its possible that both teams will finish 41-0 at home, becoming the second and third team in NBA history to secure 70 or more wins. Many questions remain to be answered but one things for sure if these two meet in late May to determine the Western Conference Champ, the winner will be the fans.