If you have been trying to predict this series, chances are you’re far from batting 1.000. The first four games of this Warriors-Spurs Western Conference semifinal has gone about the opposite as anybody has expected.
The Spurs, if you give in to public perception, are the “boring” team. They have the experience, a proven “system” and are oh-so-methodical on offense. The Warriors, conversely, are the young and worry-free team with their free-flowing offense and carefree attitude toward anything related to defense. Again, that’s perception talking, not reality.
By perception alone, this series should go to the Spurs and their experienced roster full of future Hall of Famers. Maybe the series goes five games, but ultimately San Antonio takes it in a rather one-sided affair, right?
Not so fast.
Each game has taken a life of its own, and momentum for the most part has been non-existent considering the teams have exchanged wins through the first four games of the series. Here’s a game-by-game comparison of what should have happened based on a traditional point of view vs. what really did take place.
WHAT DID HAPPEN: The Warriors storm out to a huge lead and Stephen Curry continues his rise to NBA superstardom with 22 of his 44 points in the third quarter, but the Spurs come back from an 18-point deficit to force overtime. San Antonio wins it in double overtime on a last-second Manu Ginobili 3-pointer, which comes just a few moments after rookie Kent Bazemore put the Warriors ahead with a transition bucket. Spurs lead series 1-0. FULL GAME RECAP
WHAT DID HAPPEN: Klay Thompson goes off. After fouling out in the first game, the second-year guard connects on eight of his nine 3-point attempts. The Warriors again jump out to a huge lead, this time by 20, and hang on despite a late comeback attempt by the Spurs. The 30-game Warriors losing streak in San Antonio is history. Series tied at 1-1. FULL GAME RECAP
WHAT DID HAPPEN: The Warriors struggle to make shots, and whenever they do make a run, the Spurs counter with a run of their own. Tony Parker has his way with the Warriors defense, scoring 32 points, and Tim Duncan tallies 23 points and 10 boards. To make matters worse for the Warriors, Stephen Curry sprains his left ankle late in the fourth quarter, but stays in the game until the outcome is determined. Spurs lead series 2-1. FULL GAME RECAP
WHAT DID HAPPEN: Both teams can’t find the hoop early, but the Spurs take control of the game in the second half and lead by eight points in the fourth quarter before the Warriors come back. Timely shots from Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack force overtime and the Warriors out-score San Antonio 13-3 in the extra period to secure the win. Harrison Barnes scores a career-high 26 points and Stephen Curry gets 22 points despite being slowed down by a sprained left ankle. Series tied 2-2. FULL GAME RECAP
By no means have the games gone as one would expect, and trying to figure out how the remainder of the series will play out is pretty much a pointless exercise. Here’s a look at more surprises from the series …
ROAD TEAM SUCCESS – Common knowledge would indicate that a home team has the better shot at winning a game on any given night, but in this series, a case can be made that the road team should have won all four games so far. The Warriors out-played the Spurs in Game 2 and were rewarded with the win, and the same goes for the Spurs and their Game 3 road win in Oakland. And for the two games that the home team squeaked out in this series …. Many would say that the Warriors should have won a game in which they led by as many as 18 points in the second half. Likewise, the Spurs should have been able to win a game in which they led by eight points with less than five minutes to go and their opponent shooting less than 40 percent. Shoulda, coulda, woulda … That’s why games aren’t played on paper.
DAVID LEE’S SUITED UP & PLAYING – It’s obvious that David Lee isn’t the same player that earned him an invite to this year’s All-Star Game, but the fact that he’s still able to play with a torn hip flexor is nothing short of remarkable. He played seven minutes in Game 4 and could see his minutes slowly grow as the series moves along. Honorable mention in this category goes to Stephen Curry, who played a total of 38 minutes on Sunday despite a bad wheel.
ROOKIE PRODUCTION – By pure circumstance, the Warriors have had to rely on their rookies, but what’s been surprising is how they have responded. Harrison Barnes set a career-high in scoring on Sunday and nearly had as many shot attempts (26) as the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, combined (28). Likewise, Festus Ezeli is holding his own when asked to defend Tim Duncan, one of the top big men in the history of the game, and Draymond Green … Let’s just say that the Warriors aren’t in the position they’re in now – tied 2-2 in the Western Conference semifinals – without the contributions of the Michigan State alum. And don’t forget about Kent Bazemore, who came within a Ginobili 3-pointer of scoring a game-winning basket in the playoffs. If you forecasted an undrafted rookie who spent time in the D-League this season making an impact in double overtime of a playoff game, kudos to you.
OFFENSIVE NON-PRODUCTION – The Spurs ranked third in the NBA with a 56.8 true shooting percentage (shooting percentage adjusting for value of free throws and 3-pointers) during the regular season, but that mark is down to 49.9 percent in this series. Likewise, the Warriors have been held to less than 40 percent in each of the last two games. As a result, double-digit deficits have been overcome twice in this series (Game 1 win for Spurs, Game 4 win for Warriors), and the Warriors won on Sunday despite shooting just 38 percent from the field, marking the first time they have won a playoff game while shooting less than 40 percent since the 1975 Championship season.
So there it is, an unconventional series to say the least. There is sure to be some more twists and turns over the next two or three games, and one can only hope that none of those will involve any player’s ankle. Here’s to an exciting playoff series that we won’t soon forget and shouldn’t dare predict.