We lost one last night when we took the Utah Jazz on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This game down to the wire as I expected, but the ball didn’t bounce our way late, and we came up short. The score was 114-108 with just over forty seconds left to play, and we were getting four and a half points. Had we been able to pick up just one basket down the stretch we would have covered the game.
Instead, the Thunder hit their free throws late and held off the Jazz in game one. It was a must-win for the Thunder as they stumbled towards the end of the regular season and couldn’t afford to give up their home court advantage in this series. For today’s pick, I will stay right here in the Western Conference and look at game two between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.
The San Antonio Spurs are in Oakland Monday night for game two of their seven-game, first round, playoff series with the Warriors. The Warriors dominated game one of the series, winning the game 113-92. The Warriors are heavy favorites again tonight at -10-points. The game total over-under is set at 205.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM PST from Oracle Arena.
The San Antonio Spurs had made the playoffs for twenty consecutive seasons under head coach Greg Popovich. That streak of success was in danger of coming to an end this year as the Spurs just didn’t have the manpower to compete for a high seed this year. San Antonio finished just one game ahead of the nine seed Denver Nuggets and could have easily missed the playoffs altogether this year.
San Antonio played almost all season without its star, and best player, Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs management teased his return all season long, and the Spurs players did everything they could to guilt their best player to get back on the court before he was ready. They even held a player’s only meeting late in the year to try and coax him onto the court. But I knew Popovich was too smart to rush Leonard back this year. Popovich has five championship rings. He doesn’t measure success by making the playoffs, and he knew that with or without Leonard this was not a championship level team. It wasn’t the popular move in San Antonio, but it was the right long-term move, and this is what makes Pop so damn good.
After getting pounded against the Warriors in game one, we were rewarded with another all-time classic coach Pop press conference. When asked about his decision to start Danny Green to guard Kevin Durant, he responded to the reporter, did you watch the game? Green got torched by Durant, and the move clearly backfired. When asked about his strategy for game two, he said he is going to tell Green to grow four or five inches and to ask Durant to not be so good. It is this deadpan humor and realism that has made Popovich a fan favorite throughout the years.
The Golden State Warriors struggled a bit in the season last month or so. But it was actually very intentional. They knew they weren’t going to be able to catch the Rockets for the top seed in the Western Conference, and they also knew that nobody was going to be able to catch them for the number two slot. So, they did the smart thing and rested their guys. Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson all missed games late in the year. They will be without Curry again tonight as he isn’t fully healthy and will likely miss the entire first-round series.
Golden State learned a couple of years ago that winning in the regular season means nothing when they won an NBA record seventy-three games and came up short when it mattered in the playoffs. They took a different approach this year and are focused on the only thing that matters, winning the NBA title.
Look, I love coach Popovich, but this is the worst team he has had in twenty years. They probably didn’t even deserve to make the playoffs, and they are no match for Golden State in this series. Popovich knows the only way to stay in this series is to win their home games, and I expect that to be his focus tonight. He knows when his team can’t hang and doesn’t mind getting blown out if that means he can rest his guys and have a better shot to win the next one. If San Antonio gets down big early, which could easily happen, I expect the Spurs to take their feet off the petals and try and start thinking about game three in San Antonio.
I hate to lay this much wood, ever. Especially against what might be the best coach in NBA history, but that is what I am going to do tonight. I just think Golden State is the much better team here tonight. Being without Curry is a little worrisome, but that just means Durant and Thompson will get more shots, and that isn’t really a bad thing. I expect a dominant Golden State victory where they win and easily cover.
Give me the Golden State Warriors -10 points tonight!