Playoffs 2017: West Finals -- Warriors (1) vs. Spurs (2)
Game after game, Golden State Warriors keep on cruising past 2017 playoff foes
Another postseason romp -- this time in Game 2 of West finals -- showcases postseason groove Warriors are in
OAKLAND — By his own admission, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is not prone to deliver anything but the unvarnished truth.
When he unloaded on Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals for what he viewed as a dirty play that cost the Spurs the services of Kawhi Leonard, he didn’t do it strictly for theatrics.
And when he questioned whether or not his team truly believed they were up to the task of battling the Warriors in Game 2 without Leonard and Tony Parker, again, he was simply stating the obvious.
The world witnessed the Warriors’ 136-100 demolition of the Spurs last night. There was no mistaking what went on and what could potentially continue in this series if the Warriors are as wide awake as they appear to be with a long break before Game 3 Saturday night in San Antonio (9 ET, ESPN).
Popovich’s words about the Warriors in the aftermath of these first two games should also be taken to heart. He’s been effusive in his praise for coach Steve Kerr’s team, his criticism of Pachulia aside.
“When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out, and we did, so I think that’s the deal, more than anything,” Popovich said of his team’s fragile effort. “We’ll put it away. We’ll get a meal. Game 3, I expect to see a different team.”
That meal better be a hearty one. Dating back to March 14, the Warriors have a won a staggering 25 of their last 26 games, the lone defeat coming April 10 to a Utah Jazz team they swept in the conference semifinals. The Warriors are in the midst of wicked groove right now.
“We think Game 1 was tough? Oh, down in San Antonio it’s going to be more than a dogfight.”
Warriors interim coach Mike Brown
And based on the way they’ve played since Leonard went down with 7:53 to play in the third quarter of Game 1 — they’ve outscored the Spurs by 61 points since then — Popovich’s crew will be hard pressed to slow down the team that has been the standard bearer in the Western Conference the past three seasons.
The seeds of the Warriors’ current 26-game tear were planted after a three-game skid in March that included a 13-point loss to Eastern Conference finalist Boston on March 8, a one-point loss in Minnesota March 10 and a 22-point loss in San Antonio a day later.
Kevin Durant was still on the mend then, recovering from a knee injury that limited him to just 59 regular season games. Stephen Curry was still in the midst of a spring renaissance that unearthed the vintage Curry who was missing early on during his first regular season playing alongside Durant.
They’re in a rhythm and groove right now that threatens to blow away the wounded Spurs, who lack the firepower to fight superstar fire with superstar fire. The Warriors are still waiting for Klay Thompson to get into a flow offensively and join Curry, Durant, Draymond Green and a motivated supporting cast (the bench produced a season-high 63 points in Game 2).
Critics will argue that the Warriors have been the “luckiest” team in basketball the past three years, highlighting all of the opposing superstars they’ve avoided, for one reason or another, during their back-to-back runs to The Finals.
But they know better than to get caught up in that type of thinking with a critical Game 3 in San Antonio looming.
“Yeah, I mean, if you guys don’t know, Kawhi Leonard is a damn good player. So, you know, you take him away and also Tony Parker’s not out there to kind of control the ball, yeah, of course they’re going to be a different team,” Durant said. “But we’re a pretty good team too. We feel like we like our chances against anybody, no matter what is on the court. That’s the confidence we have.
“But we’ve got to be ready Game 3. We know they’re probably going to be full strength in Game 3 and be ready to play us. Their crowd is going to be incredible, like it always is in the playoffs. But yeah, we always get criticism.”
The scrutiny is fine. All championship-caliber teams have to go through a vetting process. For the Warriors, much like their counterparts from Cleveland on the other side of the conference divide, this postseason hasn’t served them well in that regard.
Neither one of them has lost a game yet; the Cavaliers and Boston Celtics play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight in Boston (8:30 ET, TNT). Neither the Cavs nor the Warriors have given us a reason to doubt they’re both on a collision course for a third straight Finals matchup.
Acting Warriors coach Mike Brown wants no part of that conversation right now and he understands better than most the challenge ahead this weekend. After spending time earlier in his career as a Popovich assistant, he has experienced and seen first hand what championship DNA in an organization can produce when times are tough.
“We think Game 1 was tough?” he said. “Oh, down in San Antonio it’s going to be more than a dogfight. There is no easing into any game down there because they’re already a dangerous team, especially being down 0-2 and getting Kawhi back. They know they need to get that one. So Game 3’s going to be tough for us.”
Just as tough for the Spurs will be dealing with a Warriors team who are hitting their stride — and doing so at just the right time.
Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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