The Pioneer

Golden State Warriors begin playoff journey against the San Antonio Spurs

Ricky Szeto,
Contributor

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The NBA Playoffs began on April 14. All the matchups were finally determined as the NBA regular season concluded. The second seed Golden State Warriors faced off against the seventh seed San Antonio Spurs and took a 2-0 lead in the series after a 116-101 win at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Monday.

This is the first time that the Warriors were not the top seed in the Western Conference during the Steve Kerr head coaching era. They won only 58 games this season and it’s the first time they have not won 60 or more games in this four-year span.

Golden State has been more vulnerable this season then they have ever been in the Kerr era. However, they were really fortunate to face a team like the Spurs in the opening round.

The Dubs stumbled into the playoffs, losing seven out of their last 10 regular season games. They were locked into the second seed for a while and they essentially had nothing to play for. On the other hand, the seventh seed Spurs had to battle for a playoff spot over the past few weeks. Their seeding fate was determined after their loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on the final night of the regular season.

The Warriors have not been healthy this year and the team had players suffer major injuries throughout the season, particularly to their All-Stars. They were hit hard by injuries the most during the second half of the season that included Stephen Curry’s numerous ankle injuries, including a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. Klay Thompson suffered a broken right thumb that kept him out for three weeks. Kevin Durant had fractured rib cartilage that sidelined him for two weeks, while Draymond Green has battled shoulder pain all season long. Green also suffered a pelvic contusion that kept him out for a week.

Despite all the constant lineup changes caused by injuries, the Warriors remained firmly at the second seed and luckily face a familiar opponent in the opening round of the playoffs. The Warriors faced the Spurs in last year’s Western Conference Finals, where the Dubs swept them.

This year, however, two key players will not participate in this series. Curry will not play at all this round as he continues to rehab his knee injury. In addition, the Spurs’ All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard will also not play thanks to a quad injury.

Curry’s latest reevaluation revealed he is progressing well and is due for a potential return as soon as the second round of the playoffs. The knee injury has kept him out for the past three weeks.

Leonard’s injury has been strange as he only played in nine total games this season. There are numerous reports that the Spurs medical staff has cleared him to play, but Leonard does not feel he has completely healed yet. As of now, reports state that he is in New York rehabbing his injury still and the Spurs have moved on without him.

This is the most favorable matchup the Warriors could have gotten in the first round. They were 3-1 against the Spurs in the regular season and they still have a considerable advantage over the Spurs, even without the play of Curry. They still have Durant, Green and Thompson to carry the load and hold down the fort until Curry returns.

The Spurs have relied on their All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge all season without the presence of Leonard. He is having his best season so far as a Spur, averaging 23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and shooting 51 percent from the floor, according to ESPN.

The Spurs have many veterans on their roster, including future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. They also have solid role players like Patty Mills, Danny Green, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is still the best coach in the NBA, leading the franchise to their 21st consecutive playoff appearance.

The Spurs are still a very solid defensive team. They are very disciplined and focused, no matter who is on the court. They are fourth in defense, rating at 102.4 during the regular season, according to NBA.com.

While this series is by no means a cakewalk, the Spurs simply do not have the firepower to keep up with the Warriors’ shooting and scoring. At times, the Spurs struggle to score and they also play with one of the slowest paces at 97.16. That is second to last in the league, according to NBA.com.

The Warriors will be recharged and focused now that the playoffs have finally arrived. They have sleepwalked their way into the postseason, but now it is the time to shine. As they wait for Curry’s return, this series will serve as a good wake-up call to what awaits for them in next few rounds. This series should be over in five games in favor of the Dubs.

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