Anyone still want to debate who’s the best shooting backcourt of all-time?
Klay Thompson led the Warriors to a series-tying Game 2 victory tonight as Golden State defeated the Spurs 100-91 and snapped a streak of 30-straight losses in San Antonio. Thompson scored a career-high 34 points, including a new franchise playoff record eight three-pointers, to go with 14 rebounds in what was most definitely his best game as a pro. 17 of those points came in an incredible second quarter, as the Warriors shot out to a 62-43 halftime lead, marking the largest playoff halftime deficit the Spurs have faced in the Gregg Popovich era. But to no one’s surprise (especially after what happened in Game 1), the Spurs fought their way back, cutting the deficit down to as few as six points in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. However, apparently the Warriors learned their lesson, because this time, they didn’t panic. This time, the Dubs made sure they walked out with a win.
So much has been made of the Warriors relative youth as being a likely detriment to their chances of advancing to the next round, but we’re beginning to find that actually might not be the case. After two games in San Antonio in which the Spurs are frankly lucky to not be down 2-0, it might be that youth that has given the Dubs more than a fighting chance in this series. You see, these Warriors just don’t know any better.
Two days after fumbling away a 16-point lead in the final 4:30 of regulation in what ended up being a double-overtime loss, the Warriors showed up in Game 2 as if nothing had ever happened. They were not daunted, nor were they afraid or hesitant. They took the court with an overwhelming confidence that you’d expect from the team full of future Hall-of-Famers, not the one giving significant minutes to three rookies in their rotation. By the time halftime rolled around, the Warriors had obliterated whatever remnants of doubt remained regarding their ability to compete in this series. Not only did they give themselves another chance at redemption. They learned from their mistake, seized the moment, and now head back to Oracle Arena with the series tied.
Too young? Too inexperienced? Keep saying that. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson just buried another three.
Thompson was simply amazing. On a night when Stephen Curry didn’t have his typical accuracy, Thompson carried the Warriors for much of the first half, and absolutely stole the show with that second quarter barrage. In the second frame, he scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-6 3-pt), tying a team record for threes in a quarter set by Curry in Game 4 of the first round. But it didn’t stop there. Thompson put on yet another defensive clinic, frustrating Spurs’ guard Tony Parker with his length and athleticism all night long. Combine that with his new career-high 14 rebounds, and it’s clear that he was a one-man wrecking crew tonight. After struggling with his shot the last couple games, Thompson’s performance has to be extremely encouraging to both himself and his team, as the Spurs now face a difficult quandary in terms of figuring out how to slow down the Warriors’ offense.
And while Thompson and Curry certainly have the skills to keep Popovich and the Spurs up at night, it’s not just the Warriors’ offense they need to worry about. With the way Golden State has been defending, San Antonio should be equally concerned with getting their own buckets.
The Warriors held the Spurs to 35-of-89 shooting (39%), and have now limited San Antonio to 41.8 percent through the first two games of this series. When you can fill it up like the Warriors have proven they can, that already puts a fair amount of pressure on the opposing team to match them bucket for bucket. But when the Warriors’ defense is on point and their opponent’s shots aren’t falling, they become awfully difficult to beat. Just ask the Spurs, who have to feel like they’ve just walked into the worst surprise party of all-time. The Warriors weren’t supposed to be able to do both of those things. But, alas, they most definitely are.
The usual suspects led the way for the Spurs, as their veteran trifecta of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli combined for 55 of their team’s 91 points. However, it took them 49 shots to get those 55 points, and that’s a ratio the Warriors will take any day of the week. And while it took some pretty impressive individual defensive performances to hold those three to a combined 21-of-49 shooting, it certainly didn’t hurt that the Warriors decided to stop doing them favors. After turning the ball over 21 times in Game 1 which resulted in 21 very necessary points for the Spurs, the Dubs only turned the ball over 10 times in Game 2, which the Spurs could only turn into 13 points. When the Warriors take care of the ball and limit their turnovers, it’s a double bonus. Not only are they not feeding the Spurs’ easy buckets off fast break opportunities, but less turnovers means more shots of their own. And when you’re the Warriors, more shots are always a good thing.
So here we are, all tied up at one game apiece with the series headed back to Oracle Arena, where that crowd will be more than ready to give the Warriors an added boost. And while it’s easy to sit here and say they should be up 2-0, that’s the wrong conclusion to take away from this game. The Warriors came to San Antonio with the intention of taking one game. Well, mission accomplished. But I’d argue that they came away with a more than a tied series. More importantly, they came away with experience.
Experience. The one undeniable advantage the Spurs had coming into this series is now a bit more muddied. While the Warriors will never be able to match the robust collection of individual and team playoff experience the Spurs have accumulated over their years of contention, the first two games of this series have provided Golden State with the confidence, wisdom – and, yes- experience that they needed to build in order to prove they belong in this moment. And after these last two games, I’m not sure how the Spurs or anyone else could deny that they do.
The Warriors are here, and they’re letting the whole world know.
If you can’t hear them yet, just wait. Game 3 ought to be more than loud enough to get your attention.