Warriors

Know Your Foe: San Antonio Spurs

Know Your Foe: San Antonio Spurs

The Golden State Warriors begin the long road to defending their title Saturday at Oracle Arena. They’ll face one of the more storied franchises in professional sports when the San Antonio Spurs roll through town. 

After stringing together back-to-back 60-plus win seasons, the Spurs stumbled into the 2018 playoff picture, finishing the season with a record of 47-35. It was good enough to squeeze in as a seven seed, but a far cry from what NBA fans have become accustomed to from San Antonio over their 21-year stretch of brilliance.

The Starters

PG: Patty Mills
PG: DeJounte Murray
SF: Kyle Anderson
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Pau Gasol

Gregg Popovich has mixed and matched his lineups this season, but this is the group that has started the majority of the time. Danny Green might make an appearance with the lead group at some time during the first round, but expect Pop to use a dual point guard lineup against the Warriors early in games. Aldridge has anchored the Spurs offense all season and at 37-years-old, Gasol can still do damage.

The Bench

PG: Tony Parker
SG: Manu Ginobili
SG: Danny Green
SF/PF: Rudy Gay
PF: Davis Bertans

Parker and Ginobili have teamed up in the Spurs backcourt for the last 17 years. Parker played a career-low 19.9 minutes per game during the regular season and Ginobili only played 20 a game. They are fresh and ready for the playoff, but no one knows how much they have left in the tank. Gay was a very nice addition. He’s played both forward positions for San Antonio and when healthy, he’s put up solid numbers. Green and Bertans are two of the better 3-point shooters on the Spurs roster.

Offense

San Antonio ranked 27th in the league in points per game this season, averaging 102.7 per game. Their offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 107.9 ranked 17th in the league.

While most teams are emulating the style of Warriors and Houston Rockets, the Spurs have chosen a different path. San Antonio ranked 27th in the league in 3-point attempts and 26th in 3-point percentage. They attempted 61.2 shots per game inside the 3-point line, including a lot of mid-range jumpers. On the season, they attempted nearly 400 less shots from behind the arc than the Warriors. 

Despite the lack of long balls, the Spurs still run an efficient, although slow, offensive scheme. They rank 15th in the league in assists, fourth in turnovers committed and sixth in offensive rebounding. They are a methodical group of veterans that make very few mistakes and typically make the shot they intend to take. 

Defense

Throughout their two decades of excellence, the Spurs have shown a remarkable ability to change their style of play on the offensive end. On the defensive side of the ball, they play about as well as you can, even though they boasting six players over the age of 30 in their primary rotation.

San Antonio allowed just 99.8 points per game this season, good enough for first overall. Their defensive rating of 104.8 was third in the league. They slow it down on the offensive end, which helps these numbers, but they also dictate the pace of the game for their opponents.

The Spurs lack a defensive stopper in the middle, but they still finished fourth in the league in blocks. Aldridge led the team in rebounding at 8.5 boards per game and Gasol wasn’t far behind at 8.0 a night. They rebound as a team, finishing just outside the top 10 in total rebounds and 14th in the league on the defensive glass.

In addition to playing solid team defense, the Spurs committed the fewest fouls in the league at 17.2 per game. They give up a ton of 3-pointers (26.3 per game), but they defend the arc well, holding their opponents to just 34.8 percent from deep.

Intangibles

Like the Warriors, the Spurs have been here before. Popovich should already be in the Hall of Fame and half of his squad is heading in on their first year of eligibility. This is a team in the truest sense of the word. Veterans have taken a step back to allow young players to develop. They know each other well and they play to their strengths.

On the downside, the injury to Kawhi Leonard has robbed the Spurs of the best two-way player in the NBA and left the team in a strange place. If he was healthy, this is probably a 55-60 win team sitting much higher in the Western Conference playoffs. But he’s not healthy and questions surrounding his injury have left a dark cloud hanging over the franchise. 

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors: Who you got?

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NBCSBA

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors: Who you got?

The 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers went 56-26 in the regular season in defense of the previous season's championship. But the team, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, stormed through the playoffs, and lost just once en route to a second straight title.

"I'll take that '01 [Lakers] team against anybody in the history of the game," Bryant told Alex Kennedy of the HoopsHype Podcast last week. "Any team."

But what about another back-to-back champion? We're talking about the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors.

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors. Who you got?

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This year's Warriors had a similar regular season (58-24), but posted a better offensive rating (113.6) and defensive rating (107.7) than their purple-and-gold counterparts from the start of the century, all while averaging about eight additional possessions per 48 minutes. Golden State shot better from the field (50.3 percent), from beyond the arc (39.7 percent) than Bryant's second title team, but Los Angeles did a better job limiting opponents in both areas. 

We'll never truly know without a time machine that could fit the Warriors' roster, but the current title-holders would have been a heck of a matchup for that Lakers squad.

Who would you pick? Sound off in the comments.

 

Does Kevin Durant sign with Warriors if they win 2016 title? Lacob 'can't say for sure, but...'

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AP

Does Kevin Durant sign with Warriors if they win 2016 title? Lacob 'can't say for sure, but...'

The Warriors did not win the championship in 2016.

It turns out that blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals may have been a good thing after all.

If the Warriors win the title that year, does Kevin Durant sign with Golden State?

[LISTEN: Subscribe to the Warriors Outsiders Podcast with Drew Shiller and Grant Liffmann]

"I can't say for sure but I do not think he would be on the Warriors," Joe Lacob said on 95.7 The Game on Monday. "If we had won, it just would have been too difficult for him probably -- and I can't say this for sure -- to make that decision. 

"As it is, he got criticized for going to a 73-win team, even though we did not win. That's the way it is. And the players, they listen to all this stuff, too."

Lacob and Draymond are on the same page.

During the 2017 Finals, Draymond told ESPN's Zach Lowe:

"If we win the championship, I'm like 99 percent sure we don't get him. There are silver linings to everything."

In Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, the score was tied at 89 with about 4:40 remaining.

[RELATED: Kyrie Irving explains mental process before hitting game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 vs Warriors]

"At that exact moment when it was happening ... I remember saying to myself, 'I'm not gonna worry about this, but if we win we win, if we lose -- I'm going after Kevin Durant," Lacob said on Monday as he began laughing.

The Warriors did not score another point and lost 93-89.

So Lacob went after Durant and got him...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller