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Dubs Deep Dives

Analyzing the First Two Games of the Warriors-Spurs Series With the Help of MOCAP Analytics

For the third consecutive time this postseason, the Warriors have won the first two games of a playoff series. They have yet to lose a game and are just the fifth team in NBA history to start the postseason 10-0, and now head to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals looking to put the Spurs on the brink of elimination.

Fast starts were a theme in Games 1 and 2. San Antonio jumped out to a huge lead in Game 1, building a 25-point advantage before Golden State’s epic comeback in the second half. In Game 2, the Warriors surged out of the gates and never let San Antonio climb back in it.

The Spurs looked like an entirely different team without Kawhi Leonard in Game 2. San Antonio generated their fewest expected points per shooting play (1.01) this postseason and scored fewer points than expected (0.92) on those shots. On the other end of the floor, the Spurs struggled to limit the Warriors’ offense, allowing 1.19 expected points per shooting play. The Warriors combined their great shot taking with great shot making, scoring a whopping 1.42 points per shooting play on their way to a 136-100 win.

And speaking of great shooting, look no further than Stephen Curry. He’s led Golden State in scoring in each of their wins, and has done so with remarkable efficiency. In Game 2, he led all scorers with 29 points in just over 30 minutes of game action, pouring in six of his nine three-point attempts in the contest. That came on the heels of his Game 1 performance, in which he posted 40 points and seven three-pointers in just under 40 minutes of play.

It only took 13 shot attempts for Curry to put up 29 points in Game 2. His tremendous shot making was on full display, scoring nine more points than expected, tops for any Warrior this postseason.

Not far behind Curry, though, was Patrick McCaw’s seven more points than expected. The second round rookie – who had totaled less than 10 minutes since the end of the first round – got his first extended action in the series to help fill the void created by Andre Iguodala’s absence due to injury, and McCaw came through in the clutch. His 18 points led all bench scorers in the game, making him the first Warriors rookie with at least 18 points off the bench in a playoff game since Robert Parish in 1977, and the first rookie in the NBA with 18-or-more points off the bench in a playoff game since James Harden in 2010. As you can see from his shot track below, McCaw was extremely efficient on offense, converting on multiple drives and taking advantage of extra space on the perimeter.

The Spurs didn’t have many bright spots in Game 2, but one of them was the play of Jonathan Simmons, who, like McCaw, took on a bigger role as a result of a teammate’s injury. Simmons started in place of Kawhi Leonard, and much like Leonard did in Game 1, Simmons gave the Warriors’ defense fits in Game 2. He scored eight of San Antonio’s first 10 points in the game, and was the Spurs’ lone starter to reach double-digits in scoring that night. Simmons excels as a driver, and attacked the paint with success time and time again in Game 2.

Leonard has been ruled out for Game 3, which likely puts Simmons in the spotlight once more. With Tony Parker and Leonard out, Simmons becomes perhaps the Spurs’ best perimeter attacker, and his aggressiveness could have a major impact on the rest of this series.

One of the league’s premiere post-scorers, LaMarcus Aldridge has been the barometer for San Antonio. When he’s played well offensively, so too have the Spurs. When he’s struggled, though, San Antonio’s offense has bogged down. In Game 1, Aldridge got off to a great start, totaling 17 points in the first half, often from his favorite spot on the floor.

But in the second half, with Leonard out due to an ankle injury, the Warriors mixed up their coverages on Aldridge, sending help on several occasions and forcing multiple turnovers.

Golden State continued to time their double teams on Aldridge in Game 2 and had similar success. They limited Aldridge to four made field goals, only one more than his number of turnovers.

It has been a team effort for the Warriors as they’ve mixed up coverages and matchups against Aldridge through the first two games. Draymond Green, David West, Zaza Pachulia and Kevin Durant have all spent time defending Aldridge in the half court. Green has seen the most action and has been up for the challenge, allowing only six points to Aldridge on 47 half court possessions as his primary defender.

With a win in Game 3, the Warriors would set a franchise record with a five-game road playoff winning streak. In order to prevent that from happening, San Antonio will likely need to force Golden State into tougher shots, while improving their own shot selection. Curry’s tremendous shot making, Leonard’s possible return, and Golden State’s coverages on Aldridge are things to keep an eye on as the scene shifts to San Antonio.

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