(Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
Series Preview: Warriors vs. Spurs
Best-of-Seven First Round Series Begins On April 14th
The second-seeded Golden State Warriors face the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
The second-seeded Golden State Warriors face the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals, beginning with Game 1 at Oracle Arena on Saturday.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES
The Warriors won three of the four regular season meetings with the Spurs, including both matchups at Oracle Arena.
11/2/17 at San Antonio: Warriors 112, Spurs 92
Klay Thompson led all players with 27 points and five three-pointers as the Warriors erased a 19-point first quarter deficit on their way to a 20-point victory. Game Recap
2/10/18 at Golden State: Warriors 122, Spurs 105
Steve Kerr became the fastest coach to reach 250 wins in the history of the four major American sports after Golden State overcame yet another slow start. Game Recap
3/8/18 at Golden State: Warriors 110, Spurs 107
Kevin Durant scored 14-straight Warriors' points in the fourth quarter to steal the game in the final minutes in what proved to be the narrowest margin of victory in the season series. Game Recap
3/19/18 at San Antonio: Spurs 89, Warriors 75
Durant, Thompson and Stephen Curry missed the game, while Draymond Green departed in the first half with a pelvic injury, as Golden State posted their lowest point total in Kerr's four seasons as head coach. Game Recap
-Kawhi Leonard didn't play in any of the four games. He played in only nine games this season, and none since January 13th. His status for the series has not been determined, but a return is unexpected at this time.
-Durant's 37 points in the victory on March 8th was the highest scoring game against the Spurs this season.
-Throughout the season, San Antonio's opponents totaled 30-or-more assists eight times; three of those instances were recorded by the Warriors (all Golden State victories).
-San Antonio outscored the Warriors by 21 points in the first quarter over the four games, and held at least a nine point advantage at the end of the first frame in three of them. Golden State outscored the Spurs by 48 points over the final three quarters, however.
MATCHUP AT A GLANCE
Regular Season Ranks in Parenthesis
|2nd in West||7th in West|
|PTS: 113.5 (1st)||PTS: 102.7 (27th)|
|REB: 43.5 (17th)||REB: 44.2 (11th)|
|AST: 29.3 (1st)||AST: 22.8 (15th)|
SAN ANTONIO SCOUTING REPORT
As arguably the most successful NBA franchise over the last two decades, it's been an unusual year in San Antonio. The Spurs failed to win at least 50 games and had a sub-.500 road record for the first time since 1996-97, the season before Tim Duncan's rookie year. The Spurs also posted a below-average offense for the first time in 10 seasons, which likely had plenty to do with the fact that they were without Kawhi Leonard for the vast majority of the year. Due to injuries to Leonard and others, the Spurs were the only team that qualified for the playoffs that didn't have a single lineup that played at least 200 minutes together this season.
In the absence of Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge took on a larger portion of the scoring burden, as the 2018 NBA All-Star averaged 23.1 points per contest, just 0.3 points per game shy of his career-best scoring average. Aldridge is a monster in the mid-range, but San Antonio struggles from the perimeter as a team, and they don't take a lot of three-point shots. They were the only team in the league to rank in the bottom-five in both three-point percentage (.352) and the percentage of their shots that came from three-point range (.282). When it comes to pace of play, the Spurs are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the Warriors; San Antonio's average of 97.16 possessions per game ranked second-slowest in the league ahead of only Sacramento (97.06).
|PTS: Curry (26.4)||PTS: Aldridge (23.1)|
|REB: Green (7.6)||REB: Aldridge (8.5)|
|AST: Green (7.3)||AST: Parker (3.5)|
MATCHUP TO WATCH
While Aldridge will almost certainly have to score at a decent clip in order for San Antonio to keep up with Golden State's more explosive offense, he'll likely see a heavy dose of Draymond Green in the post, and that will be a fun battle to watch. But when it comes to x-factors, look no further than the point guard matchup.
A month-and-a-half ago, Quinn Cook was dominating in Santa Cruz, on his way to becoming the first 50-40-90 player in G League history. Fast-forward to this week, and Cook finds himself as the starting point guard on a championship-contending squad, with a freshly inked multiyear NBA contract to boot. Cook scored in double figures in 14-straight games before totaling eight points in the season finale, and finished the regular season shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from three-point range. Opposing him in the positional matchup will be San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray, who took over the starting role from Tony Parker this season. Murray is lanky and fast, and uses his supreme length to his advantage to speed around the court. His average speed of 4.87 miles per hour ranked second fastest among all NBA players who played at least 1,000 minutes this season. A capable defender, Murray's offense seems to improve as the game goes along; he had an effective field goal percentage of 39.6 percent in the first half, compared to 49.8 percent in the second.
It's quite possible Cook and Murray won't end up defending each other very often due to crossmatching, but nonetheless, both point guards will play a critical role in their teams' pursuit of a series victory. If Cook can be an effective and consistent scorer, that may provide enough offense to push Golden State over the top. Likewise, if Murray can facilitate the Spurs' offense and make life tough on the Warriors' shooters, that may be just what San Antonio needs to pull off the upset.
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